August 28, 2001 11:00 pm
FRESHMAN STARTER: Karessa Kroh is considered Eastern Oregon's best leaper, according to coach Sharon Campbell, and will play outside hitter. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
FRESHMAN STARTER: Karessa Kroh is considered Eastern Oregon's best leaper, according to coach Sharon Campbell, and will play outside hitter. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Heres the deal, college volleyball fans: you can double your points this season, but every point has to count.

Rally scoring will change the look of volleyball at Eastern Oregon University this season, providing excitement on every point, regardless of who is serving.

Ball control is the name of the game, Eastern Oregon coach Sharon Campbell said. You cant necessarily take the same kind of risk and knock the heck out of the ball.

Three major rule changes will affect play this season:

Games will be scored to 30 points instead of 15. A match is still best of five games.

Teams can score on every point. In the past, a team only scored if it was serving.

Your opponent cannot be doing anything on the other side of the court and get a point for it, Campbell said.

Serves that touch the net and go over are live balls. Previously, any serve touching the net, however barely, was called out.

In one scrimmage, a serve skimmed the net and popped off the head of a front-row player. Her teammates were alert and kept the ball in play.

We knew about this early and we started working on it last spring, Campbell said. A lot of (the players) have played club and clubs have been doing this for years.

You have no luxury at all to have mental breakdowns in any phase of the game.

That Campbell doesnt have a lot of returning players this season could actually help when it comes to adapting to the changes. The Mountaineers have only four returning players, three of whom had a lot of playing time in 2000.

But Campbell calls her 2001 recruiting class the best in a decade, and the teams goal is to improve on last years No. 10 ranking in NAIA Region I and the 9-17 record.

They have high expectations this year, Campbell said. Theres a new mentality on the floor, which is awesome.

The returning players are led by all-Cascade Collegiate Conference honorable mention choice Elaine McKinstry, a junior right-side hitter who led Eastern with 2.67 kills and 0.98 blocks per game last season.

Shes rock solid. We can put Elaine anywhere, Campbell said.

Senior Stephanie Stafford was a defensive specialist last year but she will see more time in the front row. She isnt powerful, but shes smart and smarts go a long way, Campbell said. Stafford led the team with 31 serving aces last season.

Also back is senior Kari Broker, another strong-serving defensive specialist who will also see time as middle blocker this year.

We can run her everywhere; shes very versatile, Campbell said.

Without much depth, the Mountaineers are going to have to rely on players who can multitask.

As a team we can have people playing multiple positions, Campbell said. Were not deep this year in any given position. Last year we had an abundance of setters and this year we dont have an abundance of anything.

Except defensive specialists. In addition to the multitasking Stafford and Broker, sophomore Jenny Nicholas will play the back row, along with freshmen Emily Lee and Tara Daly.

Campbell brought in setter Cassie Beyer, a transfer from Spokane Falls Community College, to start this season, with returning player Katie Branch, a sophomore converted from defensive specialist, backing her up.

Two other transfer students will start. Junior Mariah Dodrill from Chemeketa Community College in Salem will be a middle blocker, and senior outside hitter Sara Kirby comes via Cascade College in Portland.

Dodrill has the college experience, and shes familiar with multiple attacks, Campbell said. Thats the key to keeping your opponent off balance.

Two freshmen who should start this season are Karessa Kroh and Erin Phelps. Both are athletic, quick and powerful. Phelps has already moved from right-side hitter to middle blocker and shes just taking it. Kroh is the teams best leaper and will play on the outside.

Sophomore Bina Hall played at Olympic Community College two years ago and will play on the outside and in the middle of the front row. Freshman Heather Ruhnke is playing the same positions.

The rule changes should add more excitement to the season, which starts Friday with a pair of road matches against George Fox and Willamette. Saturdays matches are against Pacific and Lewis & Clark.