FGCU Volleyball Opens 2nd Season on Friday
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The 2005 Florida Gulf Coast University women’s volleyball season begins this weekend as the Eagles play in the Eckerd College Tournament in St. Petersburg.
Four schools will be involved in the season-opening tourney - affected by the potential threat of Hurricane Katrina in South Florida - New York Tech, CW Post, Florida Memorial, Eckerd and FGCU. Originally scheduled to play three matches over the weekend, the Eagles now play New York Tech at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon and CW Post at 5 p.m. Friday evening in the shortened event.
This weekend’s action will be the first of four regular season tournaments for Florida Gulf Coast. In September, the Eagles will compete in the nine-team Grand Valley State Classic in Michigan, which includes six NCAA tournament teams from 2004, and the Armstrong Atlantic Classic, which features five NCAA tournament teams. In October, FGCU will compete in the Presbyterian College tournament.
Coming off a 24-6 inaugural season and a trip to the NCAA Championship tournament, FGCU will play 11 matches against NCAA Division II Championship participants from 2004 and will face 15 teams that won at least 20 matches a year ago. FGCU will host 11 home matches, including NCAA tournament teams in Dowling, Ashland and defending national champion Barry. Three of the final four regular season matches are scheduled at Alico Arena. The top eight teams in the South Region will receive bids to the NCAA Division Championship Tournament scheduled for November 17-19.
2005 FGCU Women’s Volleyball Outlook
The script for the inaugural season of volleyball could not have been written much better. The first-year Eagles exceeded all expectations with 24 wins and advanced to the South Region semifinals after a first-round upset over the University of Tampa, the ninth-ranked team in the country, in, arguably, the biggest upset in the 2004 NCAA tournament. Following last year's successful campaign for FGCU will be a tough act to follow, but the Eagles are determined to once again be ranked among the top teams in the south region. FGCU returns 10 players that accounted for 82 percent of kills and 78 percent of points from a year ago. Five talented newcomers join a squad that lost only one starter - middle blocker Kristy Hartley - from the inaugural team. Height will be an advantage for FGCU this season. Eight of the 15 women on the squad are at least 5-foot-10 or taller.
Head Coach Jaye Flood acknowledges that expectations can be dangerous in sports, but feels her team is up to the challenge.
"We expect to be among the contenders in the region again and will depend on our juniors and seniors to lead the way", said Flood, who has a career winning percentage of .750 in four seasons as a college head coach. "We tried to schedule teams that will make us better and help us take the next step for our program. Our south region schedule is very challenging so we tried to play in strong, out-of-region tournaments that will provide us with valuable experience for our regional matches.”
Leading the way for FGCU to meet those expectations will be a trio of seniors - outside hitter Devon Watts (Somerville, Texas), outside hitter Lori Brooks (Naples, Fla.), and libero Ingrid Linhares-Felicio (Fortaleza, Brazil). All three played in every match for the Eagles in 2004.
A versatile player who can play every position on the floor, Watts led the team in kills, attack percentage and was second in blocks and assists, and was fourth in digs a year ago. Brooks was fourth on the team in kills last fall and will serve as team captain for the second consecutive year. Linhares-Felicio will help key the defense from her libero position and also has one of the top serves on the team, registering 34 service aces a year ago.
"Devon Watts plays wherever we need her so we can use other players at their strength", said Flood. "She is a great student who has been unbelievable to coach. I know every coach would love to have a Devon Watts in their program. Lori's skill on the court has been instrumental in our success but more importantly her maturity and character have kept a steady communication and spirit between the coaches and team. And Ingrid has been a crowd favorite with her steady play on defense."
The three seniors have a young, but talented supporting cast surrounding them. Sophomore outside hitters Heather Van Olst (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Brooke Youngquist (Fort Myers, Fla.) will be counted on heavily this year. Van Olst started 25 matches as a freshman and was third on the team in kills and second in digs while posting a team-high 14 double-doubles. Youngquist overcame knee injuries to play in 20 matches, recording 20 kills and 19 digs in the NCAA tourney win over Tampa. Another returning veteran, sophomore Carrie Tomyn (Ocala, Fla.) should see increased playing time this fall. Freshman Alyssa Boyes (Bradenton, Fla.) should benefit greatly from her first year of college experience.
Two returning sophomores - Lauren Puder (Fort Myers, Fla.) and Tamra Grigsby (West Palm Beach, Fla.) both gained valuable experience at middle blocker last year and should offset the loss of Hartley in the middle. Two junior transfers, Ericka Fonseca (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) and Melissa Duffield (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) will be joined by freshman Ashley Yance (Fort Myers, Fla.) to bring depth and valuable experience to the position. Puder started 16 matches and Grigsby started 12 matches last year. Fonseca was a two-year starter at Miami-Dade Community College while Duffield played at Iowa in the Big Ten. Yance was an all-state player at Fort Myers High.
Junior setter Laura Manovill (Dunedin, Fla.) played in a team-high 102 games and started all 30 matches last year in her first season of collegiate volleyball. Manovill topped 50 assists in three matches and posted at least 40 assists in 13 matches. She will be joined this year by freshman Ciara Sandoval, one of the top prep setters in the state of Florida while at Fort Myers High. The talented duo should provide the Eagles an opportunity to play multiple offenses in 2005.
Defense will be the strength of the Eagles in 2005, and sophomore libero Whitney Hendry (Fort Myers, Fla.) is one of the top players at her position in the south region and teams with Felicio-Linhares to give the Eagles a strong tandem on the backline. The pair of defensive specialists combined to average better than 25 digs per match from the libero position. Individually, Hendry posted 20 or more digs in 10 matches, including a season-high of 38, while Linhares-Felicio topped 10 digs in nine matches with a career-high of 21.
"Defense will be our strength this season", said Flood.” I think we're a better defensive team than last year and that will help us offensively as well."
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