The University of the District of Columbia’s 11-22, 2-12 East Coast Conference volleyball record was a learning experience for the Firebirds. The team finished last in the conference in assists and kills. The nine-person roster included five freshmen and two seniors.
That catastrophe, however, showed coach Sheila Weaver what needed fixing. She looked west for solutions. UDC signed four women, three with junior college experience, to letters of intent for the fall.
Setter Sara Stuart should help in assists. She led San Joaquin Delta College to the Final Four of the Northern California Playoffs and led the Mustangs to the 2011 Delta Classic where she earned All-Tournament honors. Stuart also garnered First Team All-League honors in 2011 in the Big 8 Conference. Additionally, she was awarded the Torch of Academic Excellence in 2010 and 2011 for her accomplishments in the classroom.
Stuart has previously played setter and libero, but Weaver said she plans to play the California-girl at setter.
UDC also landed 5-8 hitter Julia Lynch Feather River College in California. The Firebirds ranked next to last in hitting percentage (.145) in 2011. Lynch finished the 2011 Fall season with 171 kills (2.8 kpg) and a hitting percentage of .432.
The coach said she anticipates playing 5-foot-11 Tara Lynn Usko at both middle blocker and opposite hitter. UDC ranked 5th out of eight teams in the conference last season with an average of 1.44 blocks per set.
Usko also played at Feather River College last season. “Tara will provide our team with experience and leadership,” Weaver said. “She has certainly proven her capabilities as one of the top blockers in junior college, and she will be an extremely important component of our team this fall.”
The Firebirds also inked outside hitter Jazmin Rogers from Tucson. Among her high school honors, Rogers was named Arizona Republic All-State Second Team.
Shaun Kupferberg is the new head volleyball coach at Howard University. His task is to rebuild a team that was 6-24 last year. But he has done it before.
In 2001, Kupferberg started five seasons at Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash., as the head women’s volleyball coach. Over the course of that period, the school’s winning percentage increased. He started at Northwest with a record of 12-14 and gradually showed progress, leading the team to a 28-4 mark during his last season there.
Prior to Kupferberg’s appointment at HU, he headed the women’s volleyball program at Jacksonville University for five seasons (2006-11). During his tenure there, he led the squad to four consecutive winning seasons (2006-09). The coach resigned in December after going 27-32 the last two seasons.