When looking at the 2010 Spring Hill College volleyball roster, it is easy to be distracted by the number of new names that appear since this edition features eight freshmen and two junior college transfers. Head Coach Peggy Martin believes the main focus, however, is on the four returning upperclassmen. "Our four returning players are the key," she says. "They have made a commitment to making this a better program, so now they must lead as well as mesh with the incoming players."
Still, she recognizes that the newcomers will play a vital role in 2010. "This new team is far more talented than last year." Martin says. "But that doesn't mean that things will be easier. Talent doesn't always win. We must make things happen as a unit and we must constantly get better as a team from player 1 to player 14."
Offensively, the Badgers should be much improved. "Our freshman setter, Taryn Nash from Independence, Mo., has been doing a really good job in the preseason," says Martin. "She's putting the ball in a hittable position for all the hitters. That's just an added plus to find a freshman that can step into the setter's role."
Nash will also have several options to choose from when it comes time to close out plays. "This year we have four or five players that can put the ball away consistently and in 2009 we really only had one with that ability," Martin says. Junior College All American Yiting Cao of Shanghai, China, has attracted most of the attention in the early season workouts and scrimmages with her power and ability. "Yiting also brings a lot that you can't measure," says Martin. "She makes us better every day."
All Conference Outside Hitter Cassandra Marchand from Grand Bay, Ala., is back for her junior campaign and brings invaluable experience and leadership with her. Freshman Sha Sha Buchanan from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High School has been impressive early in the year, earning high praise from her coach. "She has shown moments of brilliance." Martin says.
Freshman Middle Hitter Savannah Simmons from Bayside Academy in Fairhope, Ala., is already developing into what Martin describes as "a steady, go-to player that we can count on when needed."
On the defensive side, Martin admits to being a bit wary. "Our defense might not be as good as last year simply because we graduated our two time Conference Libero of the Year Melissa Williams," she says. "But freshman Meredith Donald from McGill-Toolen is a real go-after-the-ball kind of player. She has big shoes to fill, but she's doing it well."
The defensive front line will definitely be bigger this year, so Martin looks forward seeing more blocks at the net. "Yiting will be a big help in that area," she says. "And junior outside hitter Sarah Stacey from New Berlin, Wis., will be back along with Marchand. "I'm not sure that we will be as good along the back row as we were last year, but we will get better as the season progresses."
"Overall, we have good depth this year," Martin says. "The players are doing a good job of putting it on the line every day and getting better every time we go out there."
In a season of new beginnings, the Badgers can also look forward to being part of the West Division of the newly expanded Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) this year. "The new conference is great for volleyball," says Martin. "It's going to challenge us to be better. This is a great volleyball league and everyone we play will only help us achieve our goal of getting better."
Martin is challenging her players to create a new beginning for Badger Volleyball and is also challenging the SHC students and fans to help improve the team. "We hope to generate excitement this year," she says. "But we need the support of the campus, friends, family and alumni to make our home games electrifying. We're going to need the support at home because this year we're going into some very unfriendly confines and we want our home court be to just as enjoyable for us."
Spring Hill will open the 2010 season at home on Friday at 6 p.m. versus Southeastern University from Lakeland, Florida, at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.