The women’s volleyball team hits the road this weekend to begin its 2012 season with a non-conference tournament at Endicott College.  

 The Polar Bears start the tournament with a double header today at 5:00 p.m. in a match against Gallaudet, followed by Plymouth State. 

The action will continue on Saturday with a match against the host team, culminating with a faceoff against NCAA rivals UMass-Boston. 

The Endicott tournament is the Polar Bears’ first outing since the end of the 2011 season, the most successful in the program’s history.  The team finished last year 27-3 overall and 9-0 in the NESCAC, shattering school records.

The team graduated three seniors in 2012, most notably the team’s kill-leader and All-American Kristen Hanczor ’12. Head Coach Karen Corey expressed confidence in her squad’s ability to build upon last year’s success in spite of the holes created by graduating seniors. 

“This is a very different team. Kristen’s absence has definitely changed the leadership dynamic on the team, but this is a fantastic group,” she said. “We have a great core of returners starting all over the court and I have no doubt they will be able to help lead the team to victory.” 

 Six first years will join the roster this season: Ali Ragan, McKenzie Kessel, Emma Patterson, Hailey Wahl, Audrey Defusco, and Christy Jewett. 

According to Corey, the expanded roster will help ease the burden on the team, especially during long games and tournaments throughout the year. 

“Whereas in the past, a player might have to stay in for an entire match, now we will have an easier time making substitutions, allowing girls to take mental breaks, and stay rested,” she said.  

The Polar Bears will get the opportunity to see the first years in action for the first time today and tomorrow. 

“This should be a great weekend, these last few weeks in practice we’ve been working a lot on our fundamentals,” Senior captain Melissa Haskell said. “I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to play some play real six-on-six volleyball and get a good look at how this new team operates.” 

Haskell noted that due to NESCAC regulations, all of the other teams competing at the tournament had the opportunity to start regular season play a week before the Polar Bears—which might put the team at a disadvantage. 

The team will return for the season home opener next week, playing the University of New England on Tuesday, September 11 at 7 p.m.