PIRATES PICKED TO CAPTURE CONFERENCE TITLE, DEPTH KEY TO REALIZING GOAL
Tuesday morning, the same day they were picked to win the
conference title in the 2009 SCAC pre-season poll, the Pirates hit the
court for workouts to commence the launch of the 2009 season.
Coach Long returns twelve players from the 2008 team that finished with a 36-5 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals before losing to eventual NCAA Champion Emory. The Pirates ended the 2008 season ranked 9th nationally in the final AVCA poll.
“We should be going into the season with a lot of expectations for ourselves and hopefully we are ready to meet them as a team,” states Coach Long. “We need to realize as a team that to get more we have to do more and not remain complacent with where we are at.”
Five seniors head this squad including the 2008 SCAC Player-of-the-Year Audra Gentry and 2008 SCAC Backrow Player-of-the-Year Samantha Lingamfelter. Senior Lauren Brown, who along with Gentry, Lingamfelter and 2008 SCAC Freshman-of-the-Year Lindsay Thompson, was an AVCA South All-Region selection in 2008. “These seniors have enjoyed great success throughout their careers and they need to want more,” stresses Coach Long. “I think they did a fabulous job as juniors, with their leadership and personal performances, and now they need to be better as seniors.”
Depth was the key to the success of the Pirates last year and seems to be a potential strength as Coach Long adds four solid first-years to her experienced group. She feels that “depth has the potential to be the biggest strength for us. We are bringing in some first-year players that I am going to look to to maintain that depth and we can hopefully get some good production out of those players.”
“What we had last year was a team effort that did it all; we didn’t rely on one player or situation. Every game it was a different player each time and that is what we need this year, too.” The Pirates will have their first chance to test out that depth in their home and season opener against a young but quickly improving University of Dallas team. “UD has gotten better each year,” says Coach Long. “There is going to be a lot of making sure our team system is flowing and looks comfortable. It gives us an opportunity to make sure that people playing next to each other are comfortable doing so and to see which of our first-year players are going to step up and is ready to take on additional roles on the team.”
Following the UD opener the Pirates head to Ada, OH for the Ohio Northern Tournament where they will face some of the top DIII volleyball programs in the nation. The Pirates open the tournament against Thomas More followed by Heidelberg before matching up against an Ohio Northern squad that finished in 4th nationally in the final AVCA poll. They wrap-up the tournament with Calvin which is home to the 2008 National Freshman-of-the-Year. Coach Long feels this is an opportunity for the Pirates to see “where we are at compared to some of the top nationally ranked competition. I want us to step up and compete and show them we are ready to play at that level and that last year wasn’t an anomaly.”