Season Preview: Mercer Women’s Sand Volleyball Looks to Build on last Year’s Success
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Women’s Sand Volleyball had one of the most successful seasons last year at Mercer’s including all other athletic programs on campus. In 2015 the Mercer Women reached the conference tournament final by beating a Stetson team which was ranked number 9 in the country. In the end however, Stetson beat North Florida in the consolation bracket and went on to defeat the Bears in the tournament final. This season the Bears bring back two all-conference performers in sophomores Sophie Peel and Emily Krugman and bring in a class of five freshman who are expecting to contribute to the team. One such freshman is Erika Hettenbach, from Johns Creek High School in Alpharetta Georgia. When asked about her goals for the season Hettenbach didn’t mention any concrete goals and instead said she was looking to, “give 100 percent every day.” More than anything Hettenbach reiterated that she is, “really excited to improve and see how much [I] can improve [by the end of the season].” The driving force behind their season will be, “ring chasing” as Hettenbach and fellow Freshman Elli Gibson put it. Both players understand that any playing time they receive this season will not come easy, Gibson is a walk-on who knows that this season will be an exercise in patience for her, Gibson in fact says she is, “not expecting much playing this season because only 10 girls play” and just wants to “earn her spot”. This season the Bears start their season off with a major test at the College of Charleston tournament which begins March 18th. Attending the tournament will be Pepperdine University, the number one ranked school in the country and a school which has produced 14 All-Americans, more than any other school since sand volleyball was made an NCAA sanctioned sport in 1983. Both Gibson and Hettenbach remarked that the team had, “nothing to lose, [we] can just lay it all out there and see what happens.” The Bears begin their slate of games on March 5th against UAB at home.