MEDIA, Pa. -- With the Commons Gym under construction, the Penn State Brandywine volleyball team won't see its home floor during the month of September as the Lions start 2018 with 14-straight matches on the road; however, Brandywine will play its first 13 games in October at home. Here is a look ahead at the 2018 season:
Eight newcomers join six returning letter winners on Brandywine's 2018 roster. Each of the team's three returning seniors - Becca Civera, Nicolette Napoleon and Sullivan Stark - received all-conference accolades last year. Civera shifted to the libero position and finished fourth in the conference with 274 digs, while Napoleon set career bests in kills, digs, aces and blocks as a junior. Stark, who earned her second-straight all-conference nod, topped all PSUAC setters with 743 assists. She enters her final season with Brandywine needing 357 helpers to become the second Lion setter with 2,000 career assists.
Fabiana Scavicchio-Fields' first season at Brandywine in 2017 saw the team go undefeated in the PSUAC and win a conference title for the second time in program history (2015). Under her direction, the Lions dropped only two sets during conference matches, while also setting a single-season team record with 25 victories. Scavicchio-Fields has bolstered the 2018 roster by adding a six-member recruiting class.
The 2018 schedule may be Brandywine's most ambitious ever. The Lions play a 30-match schedule, including 14 matches against NCAA Division III opponents. The season begins with 14 consecutive games away from home while renovations are completed in Brandywine's gym; however, the Lions will enjoy their home floor in October, playing 13-of-16 matches in the Commons Gym. Dig Pink Weekend returns for its eighth season on Oct. 6-7 with six home matches during the two-day fundraiser for breast cancer awareness.
The PSUAC has split into divisions for the first time this season. Brandywine will play in the eastern division along with Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, Schuylkill, Scranton, Wilkes Barre and York. The team will also make a two-day trip to Penn State Fayette for crossover weekend, facing the top teams from the western division: Fayette, Beaver, DuBois and Mont Alto. All four of those teams reached the PSUAC Tournament in 2017.
With the league split into divisions, the conference has made small alterations to the format of the conference tournament. Following the conclusion of the regular season, the top four teams in each division will qualify for the postseason. The top seed in each division will face the No. 4 seed from its own divisionin the quarterfinals. During the semifinal round the highest remaining seed in the east will face the lowest remaining seed from the west and vice versa. This year's PSUAC championship game will once again be at University Park on Oct. 31, while the USCAA Tournament runs from Nov. 8-11.
For the first time this season, the USCAA has split its volleyball championship into two divisions, one for scholarship granting programs and one for programs without athletic aid, helping to even the playing field for all teams.