On the heels of a 4-17 season a year ago, one that saw a quick withdrawal in the City University of New York Athletic Conference Postseason, the College of Staten Island women’s volleyball program will be looking to go in one direction in 2011: straight up.  Under the direction of new Head Coach Atef Dosse, the revamped and new-look unit is ready for a forward surge, and if preseason practices are any indication, CSI seems primed to climb the CUNYAC ladder.  The quest for legitimacy begins with a non-conference test on the road against New Jersey City University, tomorrow at 7pm.

Despite the subpar win-loss record a year ago, there’s plenty of reason to feel upbeat if you’re Dosse & Co.  The team graduated only one senior in Joanna Tepedino, CSI’s most dominant offensive player a year ago, and despite a few other losses due to defection, CSI has done more to complement the returning cast, to the tune of 9 new faces, all of whom could be called on early to help the develop the still young unit.

“We are still in development mode at CSI,” said Dosse when asked how far his team has come from 2010.  “Every day we are navigating who we are and who we can be, and learning from one another.  I think we are all a little nervous coming in, but if we can continue the improvement we’ve been seeing over these last few days, we have a lot of potential.”

As with most teams, the returners will be looked at to provide consistency out of the gate for the Dolphins, and the collection of five returning faces should see plenty of opportunity to provide early guidance, incorporating Dosse’s system on to the newer players.  The centerpiece will be senior Danielle Ponsiglione, who saw a majority of time at the setter position a year ago but could double as an outside hitter as well.  CSI’s 2010 leader in assists, service aces and digs also placed third on the squad in kills.  Flanking her is sophomore Vasiliki Stergioula, who was thrust into a starting role a year ago, playing in 62 games, finishing second in both aces and digs.  With a full year under their belts, returners Catherine Ebro, Priscila Alvarez, and Tracey Rooney could also see for favorable time in 2011. 

“We have a lot of new faces, so it makes our returning players that much more important,” said Dosse.  “I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen so far.  The improvement of Vasiliki (Stergioula) has been tremendous and I think all five of our returning players will get a chance to show how far they have come.  They have worked very hard.”

While returning talent will be looked at for guidance, there is no question that CSI’s ultimate success will be measured by the ability of their newcomers, who should see time out of the gate and provide much-needed depth coming in from the sidelines.  Look for players like setter Jennifer Samuel (Susan Wagner) to hit the ground running, allowing Ponsiglione to return to her natural outside position.  Never known for their size, the Dolphins will be undoubtedly bigger this year, namely in frosh Pola Poskrobka, a 5-foot-11, middle hitter, from Susan Wagner High School and 5-foot-8 Brittany Olenick from nearby Port Richmond High School.  Dosse and new assistant Michael Labib are rightfully excited.

“We’re at a point where we have the basics down and our newer players are all doing great,” Dosse said.  “I think the entire team is motivated because everyone will get a chance to get excited, have fun and prove themselves.  They all have potential to play and be valuable for us.”

All tolled, CSI looks like they have the makings to be much more effective in 2011 than in year’s past, but Dosse is quick to adopt a one-game-at-a-time approach.

“I’m trying to discover what our team has in them one step at a time,” he said. “Our first challenge was improving our numbers and we have done that.  The next challenge was assessing our skill level and we’ve done a great job and have already seen a lot of improvement.  We are still navigating who we are and we are all in it together.  Once the real games start, it will be a nice test for us.”

After a pair of road tests to open the season, CSI will play its home opener on Thursday, September 8, hosting non-conference St. Joseph’s College of Patchogue at 7pm at the Sports & Recreation Center.  Two days later, the Dolphins will usher in their CUNYAC slate with a pair of games against Lehman College and John Jay College as part of CUNYAC Multi-Match Day at Baruch College.  CSI will cap its season with their annual Serving for a Cure Night, raising awareness for breast cancer research on Tuesday, October 25, at 7pm against York College.