NEW YORK - The Columbia volleyball team, coming off one the program's best seasons in 2011, will look to continue its winning ways as the Lions head down to Orlando, Fla. to open the 2012 season with the Holiday Inn Select/University of Central Florida Classic over Labor Day weekend. The Lions will take on host UCF, Jacksonville and Liberty in the two-day tournament at The Venue.
The Lions will kickoff the series on Friday, Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. against UCF, followed by a 6 p.m. nightcap versus Liberty. Columbia will wrap up the tournament with a Sunday showdown against Jacksonville, slated to begin at 4 p.m.
Columbia and UCF met just once in 1997 with the Knights coming away with the victory. Both Liberty and Jacksonville are first-time opponents for the Lions.
Four Lions will be playing in front of hometown crowds as senior Megan Gaughn (Winter Park, Fla.) and sophomores Molly Winger (Windermere, Fla.), Denise Dearman (Longwood, Fla.) and Kirsten Watson (Orlando, Fla.) return to familiar territory.
Closing out the 2011 campaign 15-10 overall with a 9-5 Ivy League mark, Columbia achieved the second-most overall wins and most Ivy wins in program history. The Lions' third place finish in the Ivy League a season ago tied for the highest-ever finish for Columbia volleyball.
Head coach Jon Wilson returns 11 letterwinners including three All-Ivy selections.
Gaughn, serving as captain alongside junior Colleen Brennan for the 2012 season, boasts a three-time All-Ivy selection, earning her second straight first team nod after an impressive junior year. The outside hitter led the Lions in kills (298) and aces (24), and finished fifth in the league in overall kills with 284, averaging 3.30 per set.
Senior middle blocker Heather Braunagel earned second-team All-Ivy honors after closing out the year ranked third in the Ivy League with a .355 hitting percentage.
Junior Savannah Fletcher earned her first All-Ivy honorable mention as she led the Ivy League in blocks throughout the year, finishing with a 1.15 blocks per set average. She also had a season high 11 blocks in Columbia's win over Brown last season, which was the second highest single game total for the entire league.
A promising returner, sophomore outside hitter Caitlin Brenton also received just the second Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors in program history as a first-year player for the Lions in 2011.
All tournament games this weekend will be available to follow on Gametracker via the UCF athletics site.