Sunday, August 29, 2010
2010 Volleyball Season Preview
J. Andrew Lockwood
Leadership? Check. Strong senior class? Check. High expectations? Check that box as well. 2010 could be a banner season for the Mercer volleyball team as they hope to cap the careers of three seniors who have helped turn around a once dismal team.
Libby Hansch, Krista Hurley, and Erica Vrvilo have been mainstays in the Mercer lineup for the past three years and now in their final season, will try to lead the Bears to unchartered waters, an Atlantic Sun Championship. Last season’s 11-18 record was a disappointment after the 18-11 campaign in 2008, but the trio of seniors have momentum, young talent, and a passionate coach on their side.
The momentum came late last season as it was all but certain that the Bears would miss the Atlantic Sun tournament after such a dominant year the season before. With a 6-17 record, the team played up to their potential during the final six matches of the season, winning five to come just within reach of making the postseason.
“The goals for this year are to build off of last season’s success. We had a really strong run at the end of the last season and I think we’re hungrier,” said seventh year head coach Noelle Rooke.
Joining the trio of seniors will be six other returning players including outside hitters Aimee Frutchey, Rachel Urbelis, rightside Anna Coursey and libero Charlotte Harris. The depth of the team dramatically increased during the offseason with six fresh faces joining the Bears this season. Among them, Carly Iannarino and Bridget Sheerin will vie for the setter position, the only hole left unfilled from last season’s lineup. Outside hitters Cassie Roy and Emily Rochefort should also see considerable playing time at the outside hitter position as will Lizzie Knapper at the rightside. Zoe Becton will also add depth at the middle blocker spot. Junior Charlayna Braxton should see more time in the middle blocker rotation and after sophomore Jamie Duffy’s breakout 2009 season, we’ll surely see her more on the floor this season.
“We have six new freshman and I think they really help out with our team’s depth,” commented Libby Hansch on her team’s roster.
The schedule is once again challenging, but not too imposing. Facing 9 teams out of the top 125 in last year’s RPI rankings, the Bears will have their work cut out for them early in the season with non-conference tilts that include opponents like Washington, Auburn, Georgia State, North Carolina State, and UNC-Asheville. Rooke’s squad will make appearances at three tournaments in the first two months of the season, taking trips to the The Invitational at Seattle, North Carolina State Tournament, and South Carolina State Tournament. Mercer will also host Presbyterian, Tennessee-Martin, and the Citadel in this year’s edition of the Bear Brawl.
“We’re going to have to work hard from the beginning and I’ll have to be smart with my decision making so that come October we’re rested and really playing well. Once conference rolls around, that’s what we’re aiming for and what it’s all about,” said Rooke.
Key conference matches in the University Center will feature Atlantic Sun opponents Jacksonville (Oct. 9th), ETSU (Nov. 6th), and Kennesaw State (Nov. 13th).