Volleyball Begins 2014 Preseason Workout Schedule
GREENSBORO, N.C. – With 22 days remaining before the 2014 campaign gets underway, the UNCG volleyball team took to the court Thursday to begin its preseason practice schedule.
The Spartans are under new leadership this season as Corey Carlin was hired as the program’s fifth head coach back in February after serving as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator at Ball State University. He is joined by assistant coaches Morgan Salow and Emily Holte.
“Our focus is always going to be on ball control and winning that first contact,” Carlin said after Thursday’s first practice session. “It is the brand we are trying to build here. We did a lot of defensive work and zeroed in on technique this morning and will keep working on it throughout the preseason.”
UNCG returns four starters (including libero) from a squad that posted a 17-13 overall mark and a 10-6 ledger in Southern Conference play. The Blue and Gold finished fourth in the league standings before falling to departed SoCon member Appalachian State in the quarterfinals of the league tournament. UNCG has the advantage of hosting this year’s edition of the Southern Conference Volleyball Championship.
“Offensively, our kids have to understand how important transition and first tempo will be key for us,” Carlin remarked. “In saying that, our offense will definitely still be tied to our ball control brand.”
Sophomore setter Sara Hohman (Zionsville, Ind./Cathedral) returns to help run the offense after receiving SoCon All-Freshman Team recognition a season ago. She ended the year with 786 assists (8.54 per set) as well as 22 service aces and 199 digs. UNCG also welcomes back senior setter Emily McMurtrey (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Westminster Academy) who has amassed 1,142 assists and 255 digs the last two seasons.
UNCG returns a pair of senior middle hitters in Kelsey Sidney (Chesterfield, Mo./Marquette High School) and Vicky Harley (Blythewood, S.C./Blythewood). Harley finished second on the squad in 2013 with 0.67 blocks per set while hitting a team-best .314 with 178 kills. Sidney recorded 77 kills and 23 blocks in 56 sets played.
At the outside hitter position, sophomore Jessica Brezwyn (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) returns as the team’s top offensive producer as she tallied 178 kills (1.96 per set) a season ago. In conference play, she upped her average to 2.48 while turning in three double-doubles – including a 19-kill, 18-dig effort against Furman in a four-set UNCG victory. She also recorded double-doubles at The Citadel and against Western Carolina.
In the back row, junior Katherine Santiago (San Juan, Puerto Rico/Colegio Adianez) has proven to be an anchor, pacing the squad in digs and digs per set last season. She piled up 484 digs (4.57 per set) to rank eighth in the SoCon. In a five-set loss to Murray State, Santiago racked up a career-high 33 digs and met or surpassed the 20-dig plateau in 11 matches.
Carlin welcomed six newcomers to the program over the summer, including junior transfer and defensive specialist Leah Wells (Statesville, N.C./Catawba Valley CC). She was named team MVP and earned All-Region X honors. Wells was also tabbed the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Player of the Week after posting 35 kills and a .361 hitting percentage in a trio of 3-0 victories for the nationally ranked Bucs.
“There are a lot of new parts to our program but I think everything is going well so far,” Carlin said. “If every member of the team can understand the importance of consistency in ball control and get on the same page with our offensive and defensive principles, we will be very prepared once it is time to head to Charlotte.”
The Southern Conference will release its preseason coaches poll and preseason all-conference team next week.
UNCG officially opens the campaign with participation in the Charlotte 49er Invitational Aug. 29-30. The Spartans will take on Sacramento State, Charlotte and Morgan State in the three-day event.
Follow the UNCG volleyball team all season long by logging on to www.uncgspartans.com and following the squad’s official Twitter feeds @UNCGVB and @uncgsports.