Volleyball Team Set to Start First Season
FORT MYERS --- The first-ever Florida Gulf Coast University women’s volleyball season begins this Friday and Saturday when the Eagles travel to Winter Park for the Rollins College Invitational.
Five schools will be involved in the season-opening tourney – Mars Hill, Lenoir-Rhyne, Augusta State, Rollins and FGCU. Play begins at 11 a.m. when the Eagles take on Lenoir-Rhyne in the first of five games. The Eagles will also play Mars Hill in a 5:00 p.m. start.
This weekend’s action will be the first of three regular season tournaments for the Eagles. FGCU will play a 26-match schedule that includes seven matches against top-10 South Region teams.
FGCU will face top ranked Barry University twice, as well as single matches with third-ranked Tampa, fourth-ranked Florida Southern, fifth-ranked Armstrong Atlantic, sixth-ranked Presbyterian and ninth-ranked Florida Tech. The Eagles will host nine matches at Alico Arena this fall, including Barry and Sunshine State Conference contender Eckerd.
The home opener is set for September 15 against Nova Southeastern, which returns four starters from last year’s squad.
2004 FGCU Volleyball Outlook
Florida Gulf Coast University has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of volleyball as they prepare for year one. Although the team has only been together since August 9, the Eagles first squad will feature a mix of players with college volleyball game experience and an extremely talented freshmen class. Although the South Region of Division II is historically very strong, coach Jaye Flood expects the Eagles to be competitive all season.
“We have been together such a short time and our players are still learning what we can do and how to play together,” said FGCU coach Jaye Flood. “Our goal is to get better every match. We want to be the stronger team in the fourth and fifth games of our matches. Our fitness level is key. ”
The Eagles roster features six upperclassmen and seven freshmen. Learning a new system and playing together as a cohesive unit will be a big factor in the team’s success this year. Coach Flood will be relying on her older players to provide leadership and expects the freshmen, all from the state of Florida, to have an opportunity to contribute heavily in 2004.
Five players with college experience will be counted on heavily for the Eagles. Senior middle blocker Kristy Hartley (Naples, FL) joins the team from Nova Southeastern while junior hitter Lori Brooks (Naples, FL) transferred from North Carolina-Greensboro and junior hitter Meredith Mitchell (Naples, FL) transferred from North Carolina-Wilmington. Two junior college transfers, middle blocker/setter Devon Watts (Somerville, TX/Brownsville CC) and Libero specialist Ingrid Felicio (Sarasota, FL/Pasco-Hernando CC) should also provide valuable playing experience. Sophomore setter Laura Manovill will have an opportunity to run the offense, although she lacks collegiate match experience.
“These players bring valuable collegiate experience to our team,” said Flood. “They know that we have to work hard to play at a high level.”
The talented freshmen group includes Libero specialist Whitney Hendry (Fort Myers), and two talented middle blockers, Heather Van Olst (Loxahatchee, FL) and Lauren Stockman-Puder (Fort Myers). Four freshmen will see valuable time at outside hitter this fall. Ashley Zalewski (Sunrise, FL), Carrie Tomyn (Ocala, FL), Tamra Grigsby (West Palm Beach) and Brooke Youngquist (Fort Myers) will provide some necessary offensive firepower.
“We brought in this freshmen group because we expected them to be impact players for us,” said Flood. “Whitney Hendry has the ability to change the outcome of matches for us, and Puder and Youngquist are outstanding players. Tamra Grigsby, Carrie Tomyn and Ashley Zalewski are going to help us as the year goes on. Heather Van Olst will see quality time at middle blocker behind Kristy (Hartley).”
“Our strength will be our defense this year,” said Flood. “We are not extremely tall, but we will be very athletic. Our athleticism can keep us in matches. Our matches should be exciting and fast-paced to watch this year.”