Seniors, coaches prime infused youth
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 23:08
Expectations aren’t just high for the Texas A&M volleyball team in 2013, they also come with a caution label.
Warning: Team contains an influx of young talent.
The Aggies graduated all five starting seniors, but that didn’t stop Southeastern Conference coaches this offseason from voting the team as co-favorites to repeat as SEC West champions.
“It’s kind of built in that it’s motivating to match last years success in the SEC and as well as the tournament,” said A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli.
Though freshmen and sophomores may drive the team, it will not be without strong senior leadership.
Senior setter Allie Sawatzky and outside hitter Heather Reynolds will provide guidance as captains.
Sawatzky ranked fourth on the team last year in kills and has been the team’s starting setter for the past three years. Reynolds saw reserve time and has now emerged as a feature athlete on the squad.
“It’s definitely a struggle every year because we always have such a great senior class,” Sawatzky said. “Last year was five of them on the court, but I think they did a good job of leaving experience and tips with younger players in their position for them to get better. Those players now will go on the court knowing what to expect.”
For Reynolds, the preseason tie with LSU for the SEC West crown wasn’t enough.
“We’re going to be competitive and I don’t think we should be tied with LSU in the West side,” she said. “We’re going to have our moments where we may look like a young team, but I don’t think it’s going to affect us where we lose matches because of it.”
The Aggies will play a tough schedule that includes ranked matches against No. 15 Iowa State, No. 18 Florida State, No. 7 Michigan and conference foes Florida and LSU.
“We circle all of them because those are matches that are going to challenge us,” Corbelli said. “Great teams like that expose you and the world to your weaknesses.”
The middle blocker position boils down to sophomore Shelby Sullivan and redshirt freshman Jazzmin Babers. Sullivan is still recovering from December’s major knee surgery, which she opted for after suffering an injury during the first round of the NCAA Championships.
Corbelli expects Sullivan to be back to 100 percent by conference play though she is scheduled to work with around the 75 percent limit during non-conference games.
The team that most fans will see on the court early in the season is certain to change with time, Corbelli said.
“We’re young, I’m not going to lie,” Corbelli said. “We’re an untested group and the SEC is much improved from last year. We’re going to evolve, I can just see it now.”
The expectations for Corbelli and the Aggies are as high as they ever are at A&M coming off an SEC West title and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Championships.
“I think they are going to surprise a lot of people,” Corbelli said. “We’re definitely capable of returning as the SEC West champion and the SEC Championship. We have to believe it for sure before we could even see it. I know they believe they can.”