Monica Wignot had a breakout season with the University of Pittsburgh women's volleyball team last season as a sophomore, but even bigger things are expected from the 6-foot-2 outside hitter this season.
Wignot (Holy Redeemer) was recently named to the All-Big East Conference preseason first team after she finished second in kills (368) and service aces (42), and collected 208 digs, 32 blocks and 23 assists.
"Monica is the most competitive person on the team, which I absolutely love," coach Toby Rens said. "I consider her a quiet warrior. She is not the most vocal person, but she leads with her intensity."
Wignot has become a very consistent performer.
"I thought she made great strides in the spring of her freshman year and that helped her out as a sophomore," Rens said.
The coach knows that Wignot will be a marked player this season.
"With the numbers she put up last season, people will be looking for her this year," he said. "She has always had a good serve but I think she's really improved her passing and defense, and that's helped her all-around game."
Wignot kicked off this season with a match-high 16 kills, 10 digs and three blocks in a 3-0 victory over George Washington.
SCHMID SETTLES IN – Joseph Schmid (Wyoming Valley West) was named to the Big East All-Rookie team after a solid freshman season with the Villanova men's soccer team. He transferred to Monmouth last year and had a solid sophomore season.
This season, coach Bob McCourt feels that Schmid will be the big reason for any success his team has.
"Joseph is a very talented player," McCourt said. "His biggest area of improvement is his leadership. This year, this is his team, and he has become very vocal and sets the tone for the team in both practice and games."
The Hawks are off to a 3-0-1 start and Schmid had the game-winning goal in a 3-1 victory over Providence. He had three goals and five assists last season.
"Joseph controls the flow and tempo of our matches," McCourt said. "All of our possessions go through him."
The coach believes that Schmid will have a breakout season.
"He can easily be a midfield player that gets 10 goals and 10 assists," McCourt said. "However, I know he's a team player and team success will always be more important than individual statistics for him."
ZIMNISKI LEADS THE WAY – Senior Lauren Zimniski (Dallas) is a tri-captain with the Quinnipiac field hockey team and coach Becca Main believes she's a great person to lead the team.
"It would be fairly obvious to any fan that Lauren has taken on an incredibly vital role on both sides of the ball for us this year," Main said. "As a fifth-year senior, all rests on her shoulders and she has, to date, risen to the occasion every time she's been asked."
Zimniski, who is working on her master's, shows the right mental toughness to meet the team's demands, according to Main.
"She continues to be our most dynamic ballhandler, and as long as we keep her healthy and rested, she will be our main catalyst for a postseason appearance," the coach said.
The Bobcats are currently 2-2 on the season and Zimniski picked up an assist in a 3-1 triumph over Towson.
SUCHOSKI'S STARTING – Sophomore Brian Suchoski (Coughlin) is starting at forward for the Lehigh men's soccer team. But that's nothing new. He started 17 of the 18 games he played last season as a freshman.
"I think Brian has done a really good job of interpreting our three-forward system," coach Dean Koski said. "We have given him some flexibility in where he makes his runs. I think the system has really opened up his runs, his game and his thinking of where to be."
The Mountain Hawks are off to a 0-2 start this season. Suchoski, who had two goals and an assist last season, has yet to score.
"I'm looking for goal production and points from Brian," Koski said. "I have no doubt that he is capable of scoring six to eight goals this year, and if we can get that same production from the rest of our forwards that would be huge. The more Brian puts himself in the right place at the right time, the more productive he will be."
BIG START FOR GABY – Redshirt sophomore Gaby Olshemski (Lake-Lehman) kicked off the season by scoring two goals to help her Indiana field hockey team defeat Kent State 5-3. She picked up an assist in a 5-1 triumph over Missouri State last weekend.
"Gaby had her best preseason ever and has been at her healthiest since a hip injury that hampered her in her freshman season," coach Amy Robinson said. "In the attacking circle, Gaby is one of our most efficient goal scorers. She moves off the ball really well and is always ready to find a shot."
The coach feels that Olshemski has made a lot of progress in her understanding of the game and in her skill development.
"We expect Gaby to continue to improve and make a big impact on our team's ability to score more goals this season," Robinson said.
The Hoosiers are 3-0 in the early going.
CONNORS BOUNCES BACK – Junior back Tara Connors (Dallas) is ready to make an impact on the William & Mary women's soccer team. Hopefully, it will be much like last season when she was named Most Outstanding Player in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
Connors has played in the last two games and started one for the Tribe, who are 3-2 after a 1-0 double overtime loss to Tennessee and a 4-1 setback to Duke.
"Tara got hurt early in preseason and is just coming back to her best," coach John Daly said.
Connors played in 12 games with seven starts as a freshman, but started all 23 games for the Tribe last season, the team posting a 17-3-3 record.
"Tara battled hard to win a starting position last year," Daly said. "She is a tough, uncompromising defender who is fearless in the tackle."
JECKELL SHOWING PROMISE – Sophomore Kayla Jeckell (Crestwood) is seeing plenty of action with the St. Francis women's volleyball team, which is currently 3-3 on the season. The 5-foot-11 middle hitter has 28 kills and 11 digs to date. She had a career-high 10 kills in a 3-1 loss to Central Connecticut.
"Kayla has already showed moments of brilliance in the early season," coach Chuck Mullen said. "She is one of our more physical attackers and we're working with her to develop into a great player in our program."
The coach believes that Jeckell's upside is endless.
"When things are clicking with her and she does what she needs to do to be successful at the college level, it will instantly make us a better team," Mullen said.
OSTRANDER A KEY – Junior setter Lisa Ostrander (Pittston Area) will be a key performer for the Keystone women's volleyball team this fall.
The 5-foot-6 Ostrander had 242 assists and 49 digs for the 3-17 Giants last season. The team is off to an 0-3 start this season.
"Lisa has improved vastly from last year," coach Nicole Wentz said. "She is outhustling everyone else in her position and has improved her technique tremendously. With a killer serve, there is no doubt that she will be a key contributor to our team this season."
Wentz feels that the Giants are going to surprise a few teams in the league (Colonial States Athletic Conference).
"Lisa and the others are working hard and are being pushed harder than they have ever been pushed before," the coach said.
Bill Arsenault writes about local athletes competing on the college level. Reach him at [email protected].