Trojan Volleyball Looking to Make an Impact in 2011July 11, 2011
ANDERSON, S.C. – A trip to the West Coast for a two-day tournament and four challenging opponents in USC Aiken’s Invitational Tournament a week later will test third-year head coach Craig Mosqueda’s young Trojan team in 2011.
In order to be successful, Mosqueda’s squad will need to overcome inexperience after the loss of three stellar players who turned in record-breaking performances during their careers while wearing the Black and Gold.
With six starters gone, the Trojans will have a new look this fall, as Mosqueda will look to replace Jamie Lancaster (OH, 5-11), a two-time first-team all-conference selection and six-time league Player of the Week, Lindsay Doggett (S, 5-8), who holds the school record for assists and Adria Mullaney (OH/L, 5-10), who ranks first all-time in the school record books for digs and stands fifth in service aces.
With a roster that features just one senior and two juniors, Mosqueda is expecting co-captains Tiffany Rowe (MB, 6-3) and Marlie Bryant (DS/OH, 5-8), the squad’s lone senior, to provide leadership for the young Trojans.
Rowe, one of the two juniors, led the team in blocks in 2010 and already ranks 10th all-time in total blocks in the school’s record books, while Bryant was third on the team last season in both blocks and digs.
Chelsea Olson (So., 5-11, MB), a returning starter who saw action in 32 matches and ranked third on the squad in kills, will also be counted on to provide consistency.
“It’s a new year, a totally different team,” Mosqueda said. “We want to get back into the regional rankings and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. I think the players that are coming in are skilled players, so even with the loss of the talent from last year I don’t expect much of a drop-off.”
Mosqueda sees more of a balanced attack, adding “losing Jamie, Adria and Lindsay was big, but with the new players coming in we are hoping to not be quite as dependent on just ‘the one’ player on defense or ‘the one’ player on offense to get the job done. I believe we’ll have several options to go to. Our middles are experienced - Chelsea swings hard, Tiffany blocks well and Marlie is a great defender. We will be looking for her to add some offensive firepower.”
Shannon [Gillespie] may be our most skilled freshman at her position, in terms of pure talent,” added Mosqueda. “She has played at a high level and can play both the front row and back row. She can attack from the back row as well. Shannon is very similar to (former Trojan standout) Jamie Lancaster, but she may even have an additional offensive shot that Jamie didn’t have. They are different players but similar.
Hailey [Pittman] has also competed at a high level and is a very skilled blocker. She’s very quick and can run a lot of different sets. Hailey could also possibly play other positions. We expect them to come in and contribute right away.”
In addition to versatility, AU’s strengths will offense and passing. “We want to be one of the best ball-handling teams in the conference and I think we will be. We have a lot of players that are not going to make a lot of errors and I expect us to serve tough and pass the ball well. Shannon passes the ball well, while Kalie Endres, Jackie Harper and Meghan Cautero can all set as well.”
The Trojans open the 2011 campaign on the road at the Cal Poly Pomona Tournament and will square off against the host Broncos on Sept. 2. Cal Poly is led by head coach Rosie Wegrich, who has spent nearly 40 seasons coaching on the collegiate level and two decades guiding the Broncos’ program. AU also faces Western New Mexico before playing Cal Baptist. This year marks the inaugural season for the Lancers as a member of NCAA D-II, after coming off a season where they went 33-6 and made it to the quarterfinals at the NAIA National Tournament. CBU returns three NAIA All-Americans, including two-time first-teamer Ingrid Carmona, while head coach Ryan McGuyre is coming off his first-ever NAIA Coach of the Year Award.
The Trojans close out the two-day tournament versus Dixie State (St. George, Utah) and first-year head coach Darice Pratt. Dixie State is coming off a 15-9 overall record and a 10-6 mark in PacWest play. Leading the Red Storm this year is 2010 second-team All-PacWest outside hitter Brita Noble-Jensen and two-time All-PacWest libero Jayci Jeffress.
“I think we’ll be competitive with the teams on the California trip,” Mosqueda said. “It will be a good start and good preparation for the rest of the season.”
Anderson returns to the Palmetto State for a brief one-match homestand versus South Atlantic Conference opponent Newberry, looking to extend its win streak against the Wolves to three after sweeping NC last season.
AU is quickly back on the road for four challenging matchups in the USC Aiken Invitational, which features two teams that advanced to last season’s NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament. The Trojans open the tourney with former league-foe Coker, then close out the opening day’s action by squaring off against the host Pacers.
Armstrong (formerly known as Armstrong Atlantic) which posted a 22-14 mark last season en route to its eighth appearance in the NCAAs in the last 11 seasons, is next on Anderson’s slate, and the Trojans wrap up the tournament by facing Flagler College. Flagler notched a 29-9 overall record last season and made an appearance in the regional title match, where the Saints fell to perennial powerhouse Wingate in three sets.
“The USC Aiken Invitational has some of the top teams in the region, so it will be tough,” added Mosqueda.
The Trojans then return to the Abney Athletic Center for the first of two matchups versus local rival Erskine, which went 20-11 last season, falling in the Conference Carolinas’ tournament championship.
The South Atlantic Conference schedule features home-and-home contests with NCAA Southeast Regional semifinalist Carson-Newman, and Tusculum College, which captured the second seed in last year’s league tournament. AU also faces Wingate on a pair of occasions, playing host to the Bulldogs in early October. Last season, WU became the first SAC school to advance to the NCAA Elite 8 after claiming both the league regular-season and tournament titles. The Bulldogs wrapped up the season ranked 24th nationally and enter the 2011 campaign with a 64-match SAC win streak.
Anderson also squares off against a pair of Peach Belt opponents in Augusta State and Francis Marion, while closing out the 2011 campaign with a three-match road swing.
“Because of our youth, I see us at about fifth or sixth in the league again this year,” Mosqueda noted. “A lot of our success depends on how well our freshmen play. As young as we are, this is a tough schedule. But it will be valuable and good experience for the players. We saw good growth in the spring and had a lot of people contributing and we are excited to get back on the court.”