One of the two Mercer teams left in the Atlantic Sun Conference is the Women’s Sand Volleyball Team, which has the hope to add to Mercer’s collection of A-Sun titles. The Southern Conference does not have a sand volleyball program, so unlike most Mercer sports who made the jump, the Lady Bears will remain in the same conference this year and will hope to improve on last season’s results.
They are already off to a good start, as they sit 4-4 but have won two in row by a tally of 5-0 against New Orleans and Spring Hill at the Tulane Pelican Classic. The lady Bears went 3-1 at the tournament, with their only loss coming from the host school, Tulane.
Tori Penrod and Emma Peel have already brought home hardware this season as they opened the year by winning the Golden Bracket Championship at the Carolina Classic. Penrod, a sophomore is coming off of an impressive freshman campaign that saw her win numerous awards including Freshman of the Year for the conference and A-Sun All-Conference Team. Peel also earned a spot on the All-Freshman squad last season, and now, with the two paired together, they may turn out to be a tough duo to defeat.
The Lady Bears also return the top winning duo from last season, Emily Rochefort and Zoe Becton. This duo will look to increase their win total from last season, which was 10, and to help lead the team to a conference title and into the national title picture.
Rochefort will also be looking for another season on the conference’s All-Academic Team along with teammate Erin Brett.
Since the program began in 2012, it has continued to gain traction toward a conference title, as last season it notched nine wins, which was the most that they have had in a single season. They also topped it off with their first postseason victory in the program’s history.
The Lady Bears’ season ended at the hands of the Stetson Hatters in the second round of the Atlantic Sun tournament, and Stetson went on to win the entire tournament. This season, the Lady Bears will start conference play on March 27th and 28th at home against North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast before they head out on the road to face the Jacksonville Dolphins and the Stetson Hatters. The team will end their regular season against rival UAB on April 8th.
They will then begin their prep for the Atlantic Sun Tournament, which will take place on April 18th and 19th in Fort Myers, Fl. Stetson will be the favorite going in, having won the title last year and already off to a blistering 5-1 start including a victory over the ninth ranked team in the country FIU.
The other team that will be gunning for the top spot is the North Florida Ospreys. The Ospreys have only lost one match in the Atlantic Sun Tournament in three years, which came from Stetson in the final last year. North Florida and Stetson seem to be the top two teams in the conference, but the up-and-coming Bears could be the dark horses that take the conference title. The team will need a full team effort in order to do so and get by those two powerhouses.
These Bears have gotten better every year. This year may be the best yet, as they have added new pieces and returned plenty of veteran leadership. The Lady Bears will look to spike the competition and hoist up their first conference trophy.