Volleyball Team Holds First Practice Of 2008
Aug. 8, 2008
For the first time in 2008, the East Carolina volleyball team took the court for practice. The team arrived on Thursday and spent the day in meetings, trying on new uniforms and getting individual and team photos taken. Friday, however, was when the real action began, as the team started practice at 9 a.m.
"It is really good to get back in the gym," head coach Chris Rushing said. "It's the first practice of the year so everybody is excited. This morning was a little slow because we have a new coaching staff, new players and everybody is just trying to get used to each other and talk through everything. We discussed fundamentals this morning, but this afternoon we're going to really compete and go after it pretty hard."
With just one senior a year ago, the young East Carolina volleyball team gained valuable experience while completing the year with a 16-17 overall record. Now, a more seasoned team takes the court, wanting to get back over the .500 mark and post its third winning season in four years.
"We know we have a lot of work to do before the season starts," Rushing continued. "The players and coaches know that. We have a lot of obstacles and challenges ahead of us. However we talked about it this morning, and our goal is to improve and get better each day."
The back row of this year's squad will be led by senior defensive specialist Trish Monroe, who might be regarded as one of the best in Pirate history when her career comes to a close. Her 486 digs in 2007 were the second-most in a single season in program history. In all, she has collected 1,351 digs in her three years, putting her in first place on the all-time list. Monroe led the team in digs as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and if she does again in 2008, she will become the first player in ECU history to lead her squad in digs every season of her career.
Monroe will get help from junior setter Hannah Fenker, who last year totaled 337 digs, and sophomore defensive specialist Kylie Gilmore, who played very well at the end of last season according to Rushing.
On offense, the Pirates will rely on the junior duo of Stephanie Turner and Melissa Zentner. A season ago, Turner pounded home 235 kills and collected 42 service aces as both totals were good for second on the team's leaderboard. Turner also contributed defensively with 308 digs and 62 blocks while Zentner totaled 232 kills to go along with 28 blocks a year ago. Sophomore middle blocker Lizzy Bruin and junior outside hitter Katie Prast will also see more extensive playing time in 2008, as they both came on strong toward the end of last year.
The responsibility of running a smooth offense falls to sophomore setter Katie Koop, who enjoyed an outstanding freshman campaign. Her 1,312 assists were the third-highest single-season total in program history. After just one year, she already ranks eighth on the all-time career assists list.
Junior college transfer Bobbie Jo Stall will also look to play a significant role in 2008. The middle blocker earned First-Team All-Conference honors after a year at San Diego Mesa College. She will be counted on to provide leadership and experience for the Pirates this season.
Three freshmen, Kelly Derby, Briana Fleener and Amanda Lutzow, also join the program this year and look to get into the rotation. Additionally, the Pirates will see Nicole Jones and Britney Roper in action for the first time after both took redshirts a year ago. Redshirt sophomore Erica Banning will also be in the mix this season after her 2007 campaign ended just five matches into her first year of collegiate competition when she went down with an injury.
ECU will also have the benefit of playing more home games this season than in 2007. The Pirates host two tournaments and travel to the High Point University Classic and the Black and Gold Challenge, hosted by Wake Forest University, before entering the always challenging Conference USA portion of the schedule.
After a year of growth, learning and playing together, the 2008 Pirates hope they will once again reach the 20-win plateau and challenge for a spot near the top of the conference standings.