May 15, 2012
BEAUMONT - With several new faces getting playing time, Lamar University volleyball coach Justin Gibert was encouraged by his team's play in three spring tournaments.
The Lady Cardinals played in four two-set matches at Texas State to open the spring, followed by a three-match tournament at the Houston JVA Challenge and closed with a pair of matches at Rice.
"We had a few injuries during the spring that we were really mindful of and that allowed the freshmen to get a lot of playing time," said Gibert. "The younger players probably got two thirds of the playing time in competition and it was really an opportunity to see them on the court and see what they had learned."
Lamar dropped a pair of matches at Texas State, falling to the host Bobcats 2-0 and to Texas A&M 2-0. The Lady Cardinals then split matches with UTSA and Texas Lutheran.
"We played mostly our young team the entire time at Texas State and we got better as we went along," said Gibert. "The first couple of games we were trying to find our chemistry and play with confidence that younger players don't always play with. We started real tentative, but I thought we finished strong."
With the aid of a full roster and a newfound confidence, Lamar went into Reliant Center and played well against solid competition. The Lady Cards split all three of their matches at the Houston JVA Challenge, taking one set from Texas A&M, Houston and Oklahoma.
Lamar's full roster includes senior setter Alex Morford, senior middle blockers Wendy Krell and Christina Hobbs, senior outside hitter Cynthia McCollum, junior outside hitter Sierra Whittaker and redshirt sophomore libero Megan Schwartz.
All six players have been major contributors during their respective Lamar careers and their collective impact was felt in the second tournament.
"We played against a high level of competition and really showed the quality of the team that we have and how we can compete," said Gibert. "When we use our experience, we are a really quality team. I was very happy with our level of play against a pair of Big 12 teams and a strong Houston team. It shows the talent and the capabilities that we have when we put our best team out on the court."
Lamar went back to its younger squad at Rice and fell 2-0 to both the host Owls and Southland Conference rival Sam Houston State. Morford handed over the setting duties in the tournament to sophomore Madi Martin who played well as a true freshman in 2011.
Sophomore libero Erika Rojas and sophomore outside hitter Kensey Camp also saw action during the 2011 season, while outside hitter Tiffany Hunnicutt took a redshirt year last season.
"We got our young players some experience and worked on some positional training in spring," Gibert said. "I wanted them to display what they had learned, but we struggled a little bit with consistency and the intensity. We lacked some leadership with our experienced players not on the court.
"Overall, I'm real pleased with our spring season. We poured a tremendous amount of time into the freshman to get them up to speed and we wanted to use this as a springboard to a solid run this upcoming season."