HENDERSON, Tenn. -
After winning their second straight TranSouth Conference Championship last season and returning all but one player, the Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University Lady Lions have been voted by the conference's volleyball coaches as the favorite once again in 2011.
FHU, which has won three of the last four regular season and conference tournament titles, received six of seven first-place votes for a total of 48 points. The near-unanimous favorite was followed by last year's regular season champion, Union (Tenn.) University, with 36 points.
2010 tournament runner-up Bethel (Tenn.) University was picked third followed by Martin Methodist (Tenn.) College in fourth. The RedHawks received the only first-place vote that did not go to Freed-Hardeman.
Cumberland (Tenn.) University was tabbed fifth while Lyon (Ark.) College and Mid-Continent (Ky.) University rounded out the poll.
PRESEASON COACHES POLL (Place, school, first place votes, total points)
|1.||Freed-Hardeman University (6)||48|
|4.||Martin Methodist College (1)||31|
|8.||Trevecca Nazarene University||NA|
With every key contributor but one returning from last year's TranSouth Conference championship team, expectations will again be high for the Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions entering the 2011 season.
Despite a mid-season hiccup that kept the Lady Lions from winning their fourth straight regular season banner, the team hit its stride toward the end of the season and swept its way through the conference tournament to earn a berth into the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. Only one player, versatile four-year starter Claire Pennington, graduated from that squad.
The Lady Lions' attack should once again be among the strongest in conference. Last season, FHU ranked second in the TranSouth in attack percentage and third in kills per set. With the return of Nataly Gutierrez from medical redshirt to complement first-team all-conference selections Fernanda Ferreira, Sydney Rice and Sandra Montoya, the attack has the potential to be more potent than in 2010.
Both of the setters that head coach Todd Humphry used in his two-setter rotation will return in senior Amber Turner and sophomore Renata Ferreira. In the back row, all-conference libero Callie West returns along with Carissa Foshee.
As usual, Humphry will challenge his team with a difficult non-conference schedule that includes a trip to the Bone Yard Brawl in Georgetown, Ky., where it will face some of the nation's top-ranked teams. Playing such a schedule, Humphry hopes, will again prepare his team to defend its conference championship.
"The one thing I hope for this team is that we come in with a goal and the focus to reach that goal," he said. "We have the tools to be a very competitive team but will need to keep focused and not look too much towards the tournament and prepare one game at a time until post-season play."
The Union University volleyball program will begin the 2011 season under the leadership of second-year head coach, Kelly Elliott. Last season Elliott was name the TranSouth Conference Coach of the Year as she led the program to a fifth TranSouth regular season title.
Coach Elliott says, "We come into this season with excitement and anticipation because of the talent and potential. With six returning players and six new additions, we are truly a new team this year. The 2011 team will have greater depth and will push each other at every position."
Last season's team posted a 24-9 record overall and a league best 13-1 record in the TranSouth Conference. Union lost three starting seniors to graduation, and returns two starters from the 2010 season. Six total returning players for 2011 will join six newcomers to the program.
Three seniors will take the lead as they attempt to stay on top in the TranSouth. The seniors for Union include Anna Sims, Emmie Moroski and Cassidy O'Hair. Sims returns as a four-year starter for the Lady Bulldogs and was named to the TranSouth first team all-conference last season. Moroski returns for her second season at Union and was also named first team all-conference. O'Hair returns for her second season and will be called on to contribute even more in 2011.
The junior class is made up of three players who will see a significant amount of playing time. Lauren Sprouse returns for her third season and will help solidify Union's defense. Shelby Swink returns for her third season after playing in 32 matches as a sophomore. Amanda Deem, a junior college transfer, is a newcomer this year and be expected to contribute right away for the Lady Bulldogs.
The sophomore class is made up of only one player. Jami Humphries returns for her second season after playing in twelve matches as a freshman.
The five freshmen that make up the Lady Bulldog roster include Lydia Wright, Casie Logan, Kami Dickerson, Abbey Wainwright and Savannah Hughes. Wright and Hughes each played on state championship teams in high school, while Wainwright's team was a quarterfinalist in the state tournament.
2010 was an historic season for the Bethel University Volleyball program. The 25 wins were the most in the program's history. Adding more history was the run the squad made in TranSouth Conference tournament play as the Lady Wildcats for the first time ever made it to the title game before bowing out to Freed-Hardeman. The 25-12 overall and 9-5 record in conference action was good enough for third place in the TSC.
With the return of All-American and TranSouth Conference player of the year in senior Thaise Vieira, Bethel hopes to make more history this season. Vieira was 12th in the nation last year with 577 kills. Coach Starla Cupples who begins her seventh season as head coach will also look to juniors Adrianna Bookout-Gonzalez and Shea Sheppard for leadership and productivity. Bookout-Gonzalez was all-conference last year.
Losing two all-conference performers in Lori Magnusen and Jessica Vieira, Bethel will look to other returners and a new set of newcomers to fill those voids.
Pollyanna Vitel and Amanda Walton both come as juniors after transferring from Lakeland Community College in Illinois. Sashalle Wallen transferred from North Carolina Central University while Stefanie Mahaley is a newcomer from Cabrillo Community College in California.
The Lady Cats open their season August 27th at Lyon College. Their first home match is September 13 against conference foe Freed-Hardeman.
"We are excited about the upcoming season. We have some big shoes to fill after losing Lori and Jessica. We have a lot of confidence in our returners and we feel our newcomers will make immediate impacts. Thaise is a wonderful player and person. She had a remarkable year last year and we expect big things from her, Adrianna, and Shea again this season," commented Coach Cupples.
MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE
After a fifth place finish in the TranSouth last season, Martin Methodist will utilize extended experience in their seniors on their mission to return to the top of the league. Head coach Rose Powell will begin her 15th season guiding the RedHawks, using tough scheduling, returning power, and incoming talent to prepare for her 2011 edition of MMC volleyball.
MMC was 17-20 overall in 2010, finishing above .500 in the TSAC with an 8-6 mark, continuing to make improvements from previous seasons. Without any seniors on the 2010 squad, MMC will gladly welcome knowledge of the game and of the TranSouth from this year's seniors outside hitter Ann-Katherin Kuehorn and defensive specialist Precious Sanders.
Both four-year players for Powell, the duo will anchor a fairly young squad that includes sophomores middle hitter Ya Zhao and outside hitter Paula Sioto, the 2010 TSAC Freshman of the Year. Adding to the mix will be freshman outside hitter Urlike Gebhart, who is expected to quickly adjust to collegiate volleyball.
The RedHawks begin their season with an August 30th home date against Talladega College, opening their conference schedule at home against Union University on September 8th.
Longtime Cumberland volleyball coach Dwayne Deering heads into the 2011 campaign with a roster short on experience, with only six returning letterwinners from a year ago. The Bulldogs will dress eight true freshmen this season, giving those newcomers an opportunity to make an immediate impact.
The top five players in kills from 2010 all graduated or have not returned to the program, while setter Taylor Denney finished her career with more than 3,000 career assists.
Sophomore Mackenzie Gass is the program's top returner in kills, amassing 134 last season, while senior Jaclyn Rodriguez led the Bulldogs with 429 digs in 2010. Junior Brooke Bowers collected 223 digs last year, third best on the club, while junior Meghan Gass added 116 digs.
Senior Lauren Carter and junior Jaclyn Jordan will add depth for CU, along with sophomore Lacey Gregory, who redshirted last season.
Freshman Karli Collins, Rylee Butler and Amanda Wiseman should see plenty of playing time at outside and middle hitter.
The Bulldogs begin the season with a pair of home tournaments and another at Trevecca Nazarene and will play 15 of their first 17 matches either at home or in Nashville. The squad then plays eight of its next nine matches on the road before finishing the year with six of the final nine outings at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.
With six solid returners, including one all-conference selection, the 2011 Scots look to return to competitive form in the TranSouth Conference. The top returner for the Lyon Scots is Chelsea Hinton who was a second-team all-conference selection last season. She is joined by fellow seniors Danielle Reed and Ashley Daniel. Last year Reed ran most of the offense as a setter, but this season she will be taking on an attacking role as well. Daniel will be looking to regain her form after a couple of seasons of battling injuries.
The squad will have many new faces with six freshmen and three transfers. These new additions include Emily Sprick (Mt. St. Mary's HS; Little Rock, Ark.) and Kelsey Smith (Wynne HS; Wynne, Ark.), both coming off an impressive win in the Arkansas State All-Star Match, as well as being All-State Volleyball Team selections. Emily brings great athleticism to the setter's spot while Kelsey will be relied on for ball control across the back row.
There will also be an interesting side story this season for the Scots, having two sets of sisters on the team. Kelsey's sister, Ariel Smith (Wynne HS; Wynne, Ark.), has transferred from Henderson State University, while Danielle Reed's sister, Gina Reed (Clear Springs HS; League City, Texas) will be a welcomed freshman addition. Both players bring a wealth of competitive experience and versatility to the program.
Rounding things out will be returners Suzanne Fincham (Lake Hamilton HS; Royal, Ark.) and Bre Wright (West Plains HS; West Plains, Mo.). Fincham returns as a two-year starter who will be depended on to block and attack as a middle hitter. Wright saw time last season as a setter and defensive specialist.
Coach Green is certainly excited about this year's prospects. "This is the deepest squad I have assembled in my four seasons here. The competitive level in our gym is truly remarkable. We have high hopes to return to winning ways."
Coming off a season which saw the Mid-Continent University Cougars' Volleyball team garner eight individual TranSouth awards - including six TranSouth scholar athletes, Head Coach Brittany Nicley's club returns a core of five senoirs and five juniors, in addition to the six underclassmen the Cougars will have this season.
Christiana Sindelar highlights a five member senior class that includes four returning players. Sindelar is a transfer for the 2011 season, but she brings with her the experience of a champion as she was a part of the Campbellsville University squad that won an NCCAA National Title in 2009. She is joined by Katie Perry, who earned 2nd team all-TranSouth honors as a junior last season. Lindsey Davis, Arielle Dayberry, and Tara Bauch will also be seniors this year, and coach Nicley will look to them for leadership on and off the floor.
"I am really looking forward to this season with this group of seniors," she said. "They are so strong spiritually and such good leaders that I know they are going to have a great impact on our girls this year."
In addition to the five seniors the Cougars will have on the squad this season, five juniors are in the fold. The juniors are led by Kristin Selph who was an honorable mention all-TranSouth player in 2010. Jenny Gibson will have a dynamic impact on the Cougars as well, as she transfers in from San Antonio College. Alyssa Ybarra will battle for the team's starting libero spot, and Rachel Brueggeman will push for time as the setter. Rounding out the junior class is Andria Miller, who has changed positions and as a result will get more of an opportunity to shine in 2011.
Sophomore Lonna Starnes will play a key role for the cougars as an underclassman. "I am looking for big things from her offensively," Nicley said. "She is a smart player and she just keeps getting better." Katie Whitaker will headline a group of five freshmen this season as well. "We have a good freshman group this season," Nicley remarked. "They will help us add depth to the team and should provide a little extra spark in practice."
"We are looking for a significant improvement in the win department this year," stated Nicley. "Regardless of if that happens or not, however, we know that this team will grow in all facets of our lives through the course of the year."
TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY
Trevecca volleyball Head Coach Jayme Crowley has challenged her 2011 squad to "Raise the Bar" this season. After a disappointing 2010 season that saw the Trojans lose 12 of their last 17 matches, Coach Crowley has raised expectations heading into her fourth season at the helm of the program. "My expectations are that we report to camp in much better physical and mental shape than last season," she says. "We are a year older and I expect more maturity, mental focus, and leadership, as well as improvement in overall volleyball skills and fitness levels."
Coach Crowley will count on seniors Halley Wiggins and Haley White to provide leadership for a young team that counts nine freshmen and sophomores among the 12 players on this season's roster. "Halley Wiggins will be the veteran and I am expecting her to run the show as our primary setter," says Coach Crowley. "And Haley White is another veteran who is one of our hardest workers. I expect her to be the starting Libero, although she knows there is competition at that spot."
Sophomores Persephonie Devereaux, Brittany Eller, Kristen Johnson, and Shelby Sorce are the other returning players. Johnson earned Honorable Mention All-TranSouth honors as a freshman, and all four played extensively as freshmen and gained valuable experience that will only help in their maturation process.
Six newcomers dot the roster, led by junior Jenna Robertson of Payson, Ariz., who comes to Trevecca from Phoenix (Ariz.) College and will be expected to make immediate contributions. "Jenna was the most competitive and driven player at tryouts that I have ever seen," says Coach Crowley. "She will provide us with maturity and a will to not be satisfied with mediocrity."
The other newcomers are freshmen Sarah Ansley (Franklin, Tenn.), Jaimee Havens (Peyton, Colo.), Hayden McKay (Brentwood, Tenn.), Kirsten Taylor (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), and Cara Trunnell (Jasper, Ala.).
The team's schedule will be challenging, starting with the Scott Jones Classic just two weeks after the start of practice. "Our schedule is demanding," says Coach Crowley. "The TranSouth teams are always strong and the Olivet tournament will have a number of high level teams. We will be tested."