2012 Preview: Bulldog Volleyball Reloads for Memorable Campaign
The University of Redlands volleyball team embarks upon the 2012 season with high expectations of putting the group's individual strengths together for a formidable combination while taking on a competitive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). After a difficult showing in 2011, the Bulldogs boast a renewed focus on team chemistry, leadership, and mental toughness, with hopes of allowing players' obvious talents to shine through.
The Maroon and Gray spent due diligence in exploring its development off the court during the spring and summer, and now looks forward to putting it all together.
"We couldn't ignore the issues that we had last year," stated Head Coach Mari Winter, who begins her ninth year at the helm. "We helped them grow and see the value in these areas during the off-season. Everyone has responsibility to everyone else in terms of leadership."
With the intangibles taken care of, the squad looks to the personnel to make the most of every opportunity during the 2012 season.
Among the talented returnees, junior outside hitter Morgan Buckner (San Rafael, CA) enters her third year after a stellar off-season of training. Equipped with improved strength and fitness, she looks to build upon her past success while stepping up as a go-to threat from all areas of the court.
Senior Sam Dodson (Alamogordo, NM) joins Buckner on the outside as the only four-year senior among the squad. With her leadership stemming from experience on the team, Winter looks to her as someone who will carry more weight on offense than in years past.
After moving to middle blocker during her rookie season, sophomore Kelly Best (Redlands, CA) returns to her primary position of outside hitter. Her excellent work ethic and effective line-shot make for a lethal combination.
Furthermore, sophomore Jackie Starks (Long Beach, CA) enters her second season with the Bulldogs as a versatile front-row option with scrappy defensive skills.
"Jackie's not afraid to lay out for balls on defense," Winter added. "She's fearless."
Equipped with nice hands, Starks also serves as an alternate setter from the right side but can step in as an effective attacker at either antenna.
After a year under her belt with the Maroon and Gray, senior Lauren Walsh (La Verne, CA) makes the move to right-side hitter to solidify the block against the opponents' likely top hitter. As she develops her sweet spot, she strives to make astonishing connections on offense.
With incomparable playing time as a freshman, second-year middle blocker Maddi Clark (Escondido, CA) enters the upcoming season as one of the more experienced players on the team. Look for this natural leader to use her aggressive style and vocal direction to create opportunities for herself and those around her.
Perhaps one of the most consistent and skilled groups among the veterans, the Bulldog setters return a pair of impressive ball distributors in juniors Alisha Cornick (Hollister, CA) and Jen Wacker (Longmont, CO). With each possessing significant playing time in the past two seasons, they construct a competitive environment at that position with two very different styles. In addition to her outward enthusiasm, the team benefits from Cornick's conscientious approach to the game. Wacker brings a calming force to the court and offers a lefty attack to the lineup.
Also boasting dependability as returnees, the Redlands liberos provide skill and experience as the back-row general of the team. While stepping up her leadership role, junior Brittney Overgaag (Palm Desert, CA) profits from truly settling into her position. She owns her mistakes and sees them as learning opportunities, which complement the overall success of the Bulldogs. Although less vocal than Overgaag, sophomore Courtney Johnson (Dana Point, CA) vies for playing opportunities as a leader by example with a hard-working attitude.
Beyond the capable veterans, the team welcomes a hearty crew of first-year members that boasts a significant amount of talent, depth, and experience at every position.
Leading the rookies, freshman middle blocker Ashton Martin (Redlands, CA) provides a strong local representation as she leaves off of a stellar career with nearby Arrowhead Christian Academy. Her court knowledge and physical strength are among the qualities that place her above the average incoming player at Redlands.
"She is the most focused and competitive player that I have ever coached," Winter stated.
Martin joins forces with freshman Marisa Gile (Yucaipa, CA) as another middle threat for the Bulldogs. This great jumper is hungry for the opportunity to show off her dynamic abilities.
Freshman Cierra Stevens (Palm Springs, CA) adds into the mix as a viable middle or right-side hitter. With the development of her strength and quickness, she sits in position to earn opportunities on the court. In addition, freshman Haili Hannah (San Diego, CA) provides further depth and variety to the outside hitters, particularly as a defensive option.
Freshman libero Karly Burningham (Sonoma, CA) offers an impressive work ethic as one to immediately process and implement feedback. Combined with her awareness on the court, she brings the ability to positively impact the defensive structure of the squad.
Freshman Lauren Ellingwood (Kirkland, CA) enters the season as a lucrative setter with a natural feel for the pace and tempo of the Bulldog offense. Her great hands, tall stature, and attacking mentality bode well for her success in her rookie campaign. Count on her to push the veterans to become even better.
Mixing in on defense, first-year libero Justine Urauchi (Cupertino, CA) adds excellent speed to the team as one who consistently works to be in the right place at the right time.
Along with the revised roster, the Bulldogs enter another new experience with Chapman University as a member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
"I'm glad Chapman is finally in the league. It adds to the overall strength of the SCIAC."
As the team continues to reveal its talent on the court, it also looks forward to gaining from the behind-the-scenes changes, like becoming a more cohesive unit.
"We are really focused on the team and not our own self," Winter stated. "We have a lot of talent and we believe in it."
Overall, the squad holds high expectations for the coming season as an opportunity for improvement while learning from last year's challenges. Although forgetting the past seems to be the easy option, the Bulldogs hold true to the lessons learned as motivation for raising the bar on a new era of Redlands volleyball.