As the Seattle University volleyball team enters its final week of preseason practice, head coach James Finley, now in his second year at the helm of the program, reflects on his expectations for the team over the next three months.
Q: How has the team progressed from the end of the 2013 season through today, after a week of practice to get ready for the 2014 season?
A: The team has moved forward quickly this summer and preseason. After working extremely hard in the weight room and building their own high standard and identity this past year, this team is very determined to stay focused, hold each other accountable and continue improving each day.
Q: Despite missing some matches, Martina Samadan still earned Second Team All-WAC honors as well as All-WAC Tournament recognition. How important is it to have her as healthy as possible?
A: It is very important to our success for Martina to have a healthy year. Even though she missed a significant number of matches in 2013, she still hit .416 for the season (this would have been 12th nationally if Martina played in just two more matches), with a block per set. When healthy she is the best middle in the WAC and one of the best middles in the country. However, the most important thing she brings to our team is leadership, support and a voice.
Q: Iris Ivanis and Kerry Lane were also recognized by the conference coaches last season, what is your outlook for their performances going forward?
A: Kerry has been pushing herself and this team all summer and throughout preseason. Her work ethic and determination is a standard for our young team. She has continued to improve each day with her IQ, deception and athleticism. Iris is a crowd pleaser with her dynamic play. Her maturity from last year shows in her ability to move on to the next play after an error by her or our team. She will have another exceptional season and is a dynamic part of our program.
Q: What about the other returners from the 2013 squad?
A: Our returning players will contribute at a higher level this season. After one season, Matea Mamic has regained her physical and mental toughness and will compete for the top outside hitter in the WAC and nationally. She has developed a strong voice that continues to motivate and challenge everyone in our program. Stephanie Stoll is one of the most improved players from last year. She has become a force in the middle that teams will struggle defending. Her IQ and decision making has grown so much. Also, we have continued to see improvement this year from Alec Goodrie on the right side. She is more physical and has improved her ability to score points. Kirstin Schauble, setter in 2013, made the transition to libero this winter/spring. She is a natural in this position and will be difficult to beat out in the libero position. She should see significant time on the court this season.
Q: Among the newcomers, who has impressed you so far during preseason workouts?
A: Our newcomers have been very coachable, learned our system quickly and are pushing our returners everyday in practice. Meghan Richard, setter from Colorado, is growing quickly in the most challenging position and will push Kerry every week for the chance to start. Shelby Babcock, libero from Arizona, has made the jump to Division I without too much difficulty. She is working hard and continues to improve daily. She should see significant playing time as a freshman in the libero or defensive specialist position. Jelena Vujcin is developing and learning to adapt her game to a totally different style and system of play. Her athletic ability is helping her be successful during the learning process. She will challenge several people for their position as the season progresses. She is working in the middle and the right side.
Q: The team was picked by the conference coaches to finish in second place, do they deserve that recognition, and how do you feel the league lines up this season?
A: This team has earned respect with their second place vote from the WAC coaches. With a strong finish in 2013, the expectation within our program is very high. The conference coaches recognize that the SU volleyball team will be a strong contender for the WAC regular season and tournament championships. The league should be competitive with the improvement of Grand Canyon and young teams in 2013 returning more mature squads, UVU and UMKC. New Mexico State will be in the mix again with the return of several strong players. The one unknown is how CSUB will compete with their new coaching staff and the loss of two very good seniors.
Q: Any final thoughts going into Friday's Red & White Scrimmage?
A: The entire team and staff are looking forward to showing the community and university how much they have improved over the last eight months. Coming off an exceptional academic year, the Redhawk Volleyball Team is poised to soar to new heights this season. We look forward to seeing everyone in the Connolly Center this Friday, August 22 at 7 p.m. Redhawk Volleyball is Building Champions!