With a three-season record of 35-1 in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) and two consecutive trips to the NAIA National Volleyball Championship Tournament, the Spring Hill College volleyball team has come to expect winning matches. The 2013 volleyball season begins with the same expectations but with even more pressure than in the past. The Badgers return all six of their starters and the libero from a team that recorded a 30-7 overall mark and a regular season conference championship in 2012.
"The team is excited about the challenges ahead," says head coach Dr. Peggy Martin. "They realize they are wearing the proverbial target on their backs, but pressure is a privilege."
This edition of the SHC Volley Badgers will feature three seniors who have started every match that the Badgers have played in their previous three seasons. Honorable Mention All-America setter Taryn Nash of Independence, Mo., along with All-Conference performers middle hitter Sha Sha Buchanan and libero Meredith Donald of Mobile have built a 97-15 record on the court together, but this season will be the one they will remember. "Our seniors will be called on for not only leadership but consistent play because we are still a very young team," Martin says. "Taryn, Meredith and Sha have set great examples for the underclassmen during the preseason."
The SHC offense will begin with the talent and experience of Nash at the setter and she will have numerous options to call on for the kill. Junior middle hitter Megan Haber of Lillian, Ala., will patrol the middle while junior Sami Mauer will monitor the outside and back court. Sophomore Sami Hantak from St. Louis, Mo., won recognition as an SSAC All-Freshman team member on the right side and showed tremendous improvement throughout the 2012 season. Sophomore Ginny Hicks of Salt Lake City, Utah, worked her way onto the SSAC All-Freshman squad last season at outside hitter and will return to that position in 2013.
The Badger defense should be stout again this season with Donald bringing 1453 career digs back to the court in the libero role to go along with Buchanan's 348 total career blocks. The backcourt earned large amounts of playing time and experience last year with sophomores Mallory Raulerson of Mobile, Taylor Lahasky from New Iberia, La., and Abby Allard of Belleville, Ill., each playing vital roles as freshman. "Our defense is a bit ahead of our offense this preseason," Martin says. "But that's primarily due to the experience gained by our sophomores last season."
Sophomore Savannah Becnel of Metairie, La., returns to the middle as the primary reserve to a group of potential NAIA All-America players at that position.
Martin, however, is under no illusion that the returning experience among her starters will result in easy wins. "Even with all of our starters returning, in order for us to improve this year we will need immediate help from our freshmen," she says. On the outside Molly Griffin of Westlake Village, Calif., and Madison Seuzeneau from Tampa, Fla., will look to add to the Badger front line on offense and defense. Hannah Masoner of Camden, Tenn., has proven to be one of the best athletes on the team and will add depth at that position as well as in the back court.
Sara Brodner of Chicago, Ill., will switch from her high school position on the outside to the right side and also see some playing time in the middle. Defensive specialist Lindsey Pecoraro of Chesterfield, Mo., will join a talented group of backcourt specialists. Marie Rooks of Tallahassee, Fla. comes to Spring Hill as a talented setter eager ready to take her game to the next level and will profit by working behind the experience and knowledge of Nash.
The Badgers will open the 2013 season on Friday by hosting the UMobile/Spring Hill Invitational beginning at 2 p.m. versus Xavier University (La.) followed by a 6 p.m. match with Southern University-New Orleans (SUNO) in the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.