The Missouri S&T volleyball program has recorded three straight winning seasons heading into its 2013 campaign. For that to continue head coach Jason Holt is looking for the right mix between his returners and newcomers as the program enters its seventh season.
S&T returns nearly half of its squad from last season, but was hit hard losing four All-GLVC selections to graduation. Holt brought in nine new faces this offseason adding a pair of Division II transfers in Dana Shannon (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake Central) and Ciara Sebelius (Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada/Westwood Collegiate Inst.) along with seven freshmen.
Holt likes what he's seen so far in practice from the returners and feels that the new additions are progressing well.
"Graduation can hit teams hard, but we prefer to think that we are building a tradition here at Missouri S&T and Miner volleyball, and as the saying goes 'Tradition Never Graduates," Holt said. "My coaching staff and I see the 2013 season as a great opportunity to showcase the strong talent a great returning group as well as arguably the best freshmen classes we may have had here at Missouri S&T. The team is coming together very nicely and they have shown some amazing glimpses of being a team to reckon with this fall."
Sophomore middle hitter Krista Haslag (Linn, Mo./Helias ) is the top returning offensive threat for the Miners. She had an impressive freshman campaign being named as the Great Lakes Valley Conference's Co-Freshman of the Year and was also a third team AVCA All-American. Joining Haslag in the middle will be sophomore Gracey Moon (Kirkwood, Mo./Kirkwood), junior Jackie Zellmer (Nixa, Mo./Nixa) and freshman Shelby Wagner (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit). Moon redshirted last year while Zellmer was limited because of injury.
Senior Hayley Wright (Omaha, Neb./Millard West) and junior Alison Mueller (Bartelso, Ill./Mater Dei ) return at the outside hitter position. The duo combined to average over 2.5 kills per set and will be relied upon to help take pressure off of Haslag. Freshmen Holly Tarvin (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs) and Ashley Allegri (Leawood, Kan./Shawnee Mission East) will provide additional depth at the position
Junior Katie McDonald (Orland Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) returns to provide some punch to the rightside of the attack. McDonald didn't play a lot early last season, but came on towards the end of the season averaging 1.19 kills/set. Freshman Claire Luther (St. Louis, Mo./Lutheran South) will compete with McDonald for playing time.
One of the challenges is going to be on the defensive side of the ball as S&T lost five solid players along its backline. Junior Emily Jaeger (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph's Academy) is the lone returnee on the backline for the Miners, but she's not the only one with collegiate experience. Shannon played as a freshman last year at Newman University in Wichita, Kan., recording 205 digs which was third highest on the team. She averaged 2.53 digs/set and had 11 matches with 10 or more digs including a career high 27 against Texas A&M International.
Page 2 of 2 - Joining Jaeger and Shannon on the back line will be freshmen Cydney Denning (San Antonio, Texas/Brandeis ) and Caitlin Brocker (Crystal Lake, Ill./Marian Central ). Allegri will split time at both the outside hitter and defensive specialists position.
The other challenge is going to be in replacing Jennifer Costello (St. Louis, Mo./Parkway South ) at the setter position. Holt is counting on Sebelius to fill that role along with freshman Allie Plunk (Hurst, Texas/Birdville). Sebelius played her first two years at Michigan Tech before transferring to Rolla. During her two playing seasons at MTU, she played in 144 combined sets finishing with 392 assists, 116 digs, 37 kills and 29 service aces.
S&T will once again face a daunting schedule with five schools ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Pre-Season Top 25 Coaches Poll. In addition to those schools three other teams received consideration for inclusion in the poll.
The Miners will get tested right away facing West Florida, ranked 19th, and Minnesota Duluth, ranked fourth, in the poll this weekend in Pensacola, Fla.
"We have scheduled very tough this fall to put ourselves in a great position to make a strong NCAA regional run if we can take care of business on the court," Holt said. "Over the years we have earned great respect from many traditionally ranked, both regionally and nationally, teams. We want to be in the conversation as one of the top Midwest Region teams this year. To do that, we need to play at our best, and beat the best. I think the team is ready to do just that. It should be a great season for the Miners."
2013 S&T volleyball schedule: Sept. 6-7...U. of West Florida at Pensacola, Fla.
Sept. 13-14...North Alabama Tourney in Florence, Ala.
Sept. 21...Indianapolis, 5 p.m.*
Sept. 22...Saint Joseph's, 1 p.m.*
Sept. 28...at Southern Indiana, 5 p.m.*
Sept. 29...at Bellarmine, noon*
Oct. 1...Central Missouri, 6 p.m.
Oct. 4...at William Jewell, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 5...at Rockhurst, 3 p.m.*
Oct. 8...at Drury, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 11...Maryville, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 12...Missouri-St. Louis, 3 p.m.*
Oct. 18...at Truman State, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 19...at Quincy, 3 p.m.*
Oct. 22...Lindenwood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25-26...GLVC/GLIAC Crossover
Nov. 2...at Illinois Springfield, 5 p.m.*
Nov. 3...at McKendree, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 9...Lewis, 5 p.m.*
Nov. 10...Wisconsin-Parkside, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 12...Drury, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 15...Rockhurst, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 16...William Jewell, 3 p.m.*
Nov. 22-24...GLVC Tourney, tba
Nov. 5-7...NCAA Division II Midwest Regional, tba