With ten returning players and five new freshmen, the Mercer University volleyball team is looking forward to an exciting and challenging year.
Senior Captain Emily Rochefort said the returning team members are talented leaders and players, and the new freshmen are strong volleyball players too.
The team has practiced almost every day since moving back to Mercer on Aug. 5.
“Throughout preseason, the competition in the gym has been inspiring as we continue to push each other forward,” said Rochefort.
Rochefort and her teammates will face off against the University of Alabama for their first game on Aug. 30 as part of the Alabama Birmingham Invitational.
The two teams everyone is looking forward to competing against, though, are East Tennessee State University and Florida Gulf Coast University.
ETSU is the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference champion, and Florida Gulf Coast is a Mercer rival, said Rochefort.
The Mercer volleyball team will compete against ETSU for the first time on Sept. 20 in Mercer’s very own Hawkins Arena.
Rochefort didn’t seem too worried, though.
“Our coaching staff will most definitely have us prepared and ready for a challenging schedule,” she said.
The team will also compete against Florida Gulf Coast on Oct. 25 in Hawkins Arena.
Last year, the team had a somewhat disappointing record of 11-18. In conference, they won 7-11. Under new head coach Damian Elder, the Bears were able to make strides in the 2012 season. This year they look to be far more successful.
“We continue to push each other forward,” said Rochefort, “the athleticism and intensity in the gym has increased so significantly from previous years.”
Last season, Rochefort, along with outside hitter Molly Locke received Atlantic Sun honors. Rochefort made the All-Conference second team while Locke landed the All-Freshman team selection.
During the regular 2012 season, Rochefort led the conference in digs per set and ended the season just 46 digs shy of tying Claire Tucker’s record set in 2008. Locke ended the 2012 regular season leading the A-Sun freshmen in kills per set and ranked sixth overall in the conference.
Although these are great honors and accomplishments, Rochefort says that the main goal this season is to win the A-Sun Championship.
“This year’s team is full of great athletes that are capable of achieving any award, but we need to work as a team if we want to get the wins. We’ve been doing a great job of that so far in practice, and I know we’ll be able to do it in games.”
Rochefort said much of the increased athleticism and intensity is due to the talented new freshmen.
Avery Hoven, Ellie James, Gretja Otten and Tori Penrod and Kaitlyn Rice are the five freshmen that Elder recently added to the squad.
— Sports Editor Carly Iannarino contributed to this report.