FAIRBORN — Wright State volleyball coach Travers Green inherited a loaded roster when he took over last year, including Jenna Story, the Horizon League’s first four-time defensive player of the year, and Lainey Stephenson, a two-time setter of the year.
But while the talent was abundant, Green still had to get the holdovers to buy in and adapt to a new staff and style — and they did.
The Raiders went 28-4 overall and 18-0 in the league, winning a school-record 23 straight matches along the way.
They won the second conference tourney title in program history and reached the NCAA tourney for the third time in four years.
“I knew we had a chance to be successful. I didn’t know HOW successful we’d be. But I’ll admit to this as a coach: You never really can reflect back on what you did. … It’s always ‘on to the next thing,’” said Green, whose team fell to No. 13 Georgia Tech in an NCAA first-round game.
“We were preparing for the NCAA tournament. Then it was, how can we make our roster better? We’re in that process now — how can we make this group similar to last year’s group?”
Life in Raider Land has been somewhat rocky. They’re 3-6 — the first time they’ve had as many as six losses before October since going 15-14 in 2018.
But they’ve played an ambitious schedule, and they haven’t had their full lineup yet because of injuries.
Story, who has joined the corporate world with Raymond James investment banking, and Stephenson, now an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, have been difficult to replace. But the Raiders were still overwhelming preseason favorites to win the league.
“They helped put Wright State on the map from a volleyball standpoint. We’re very grateful for those two. But a lot of people on the roster were here with Jenna and Lainey. They’ve seen how things are done. It wasn’t just those two,” Green said.
“I’ve been proud of our ‘fifth-years’ and how they’ve stepped up and filled that void.”
The Raiders return two first-team all-league picks in fifth-year player Callie Martin and senior Taylor Bransfield (she’s been out with an undisclosed injury).
Megan Alders, Sam Ott and Katie Meyer, who are in their fifth seasons, are proven players, too.
Taking over at libero for Story, who’s third in NCAA history in career digs, is High Point transfer Jenny Wessling, a junior from Louisville (Story’s hometown).
“We miss Jenna. She would make some incredible plays. But the player we have playing in her spot is very similar, if not just as good,” Green said.
“She’s new to us, and she’s trying to earn the respect of her teammates. But she’s been an awesome addition.”
Meyer, who passed out 40 of the team’s 45 assists in a straight-set win over Northern Kentucky in the HL tourney finals last year, has taken over Stephenson’s role.
“Sometimes setters — I know I was guilty of this when I was playing — don’t really totally care about the defensive side of things. But she’s really passionate about that,” Green said.
Defense has been a sore point so far, in part because of having to face the likes of No. 4 Louisville and No. 24 Washington State.
The Raiders were seventh nationally last year in digs per set at 17.33. They’re averaging 14.8 this season.
They were 11th in opponents’ hitting percentage at .159 and have dipped to .225.
But Green said: “We have the pieces to be an elite defensive team again this season.”
The Raiders host the Beavercreek Invitational this week, meeting Butler at 6 p.m. Thursday and Cincinnati at 2 p.m. Saturday in McLin Gym.
League play starts next week.
“Wright State has never repeated as conference tournament champions. There’s some volleyball programs that do it year in and year out,” Green said. “That’s one of the reasons we scheduled the way we did. We wanted to be pushed and challenged.
“It’s a good thing to face some adversity in this part of the season and prepare ourselves for a run at it again.”