Aug. 10, 2013
BEAUMONT - With 10 freshmen and a junior college transfer on the roster for 2013, Lamar head volleyball coach Justin Gibert was excited to open his preseason camp on Saturday at McDonald Gym.
"I've been looking forward to seeing the girls on the court, and it's been fun so far," the ninth-year head coach said. "It's a real adventure for us as a coaching staff with this many newcomers because you don't exactly know where the talent is going to take you. It's going to be fun."
Sierra Whittaker, a former All-Southland honoree, returns as the squad's only senior, and Gibert expects the Houston native to have a strong final year in Beaumont.
"Sierra's our lone returning senior and she's jumping higher than she ever has," Gibert revealed. "She already had a huge arm. Sierra's one of the best outside hitter in the conference, and Cortney Moore is a phenomenal middle. She won Freshman of the Year last year, and she's probably one of the best in the conference as well. Megan Schwartz is a great libero too, so we have some great components to build around for this season."
Of the 11 players looking to hit the court for the first time this fall, four will already have extensive training with the team to bolster their chances. Both Chelsea Grant and Sara Landis were red-shirted last year due to the depth at middle, and the duo of freshman setter Alexa Johnson and junior defensive specialist Molly Duge got a head start by joining the team in January.
"Molly really has a chance to make some big technical strides, and she was just outstanding this morning," Gibert explained. "She brings in a lot of leadership, and I like what I've seen out of her. With a young setter, it's great to have someone who already knows what's expected out of her. Obviously, that gives Alexa a step up, but I loved what I saw from Ashley Ellis
this morning. I expect her to push for playing time as well."
The position battle between Johnson and Ellis is one of several Gibert expects to play out over the course of the next few weeks.
"I have to think that Sierra will naturally hold down one of the pin positions, but the other will be played by one of the young players," Gibert said. "The other left side hitter will be either Beneice Douch, Nicole Parish or Autumn Taylor. On the right side, Madi Martin is returning and moving over from setter. She has a lot of great capabilities, but Cedar is very tall and she'll compete for that position. I think we can expect multiple contributors at those positions this year."
Practice will pick up once more on Monday, and the Lady Cardinals will open their season in San Marcos at the Texas State Classic on August 30 before returning to Beaumont on September 2 for the home opener vs. Texas-Pan American.