Summer has come and gone and that means it’s time for the Abilene Christian University women’s volleyball team to gear up for another successful season.
The Wildcats ended 2010 with a 27-6 overall record and a 13-1 mark in the Lone Star Conference.
The Wildcats’ 2010 campaign ended when the team was knocked out in the semifinal round of the Division II South Central Region Tournament by Washburn University last year.
The No. 23 Wildcats have somewhat of a new look this year as several key players have departed, including All American Shawna Hines, two-time first team all-Lone Star Conference honoree Ijeoma Moronu, and LSC second team member Jordan Schilling.
Hines lead the team in kills and points in 2010 with 323 and 422 respectively. Schilling recorded 273 kills along with a team high 25 service aces, while Moronu had 1,169 assists and is now second all-time at ACU with 4,847.
The 2011 roster is filled with new faces and young talent with an improved roster that includes seven freshman (two redshirted) and four sophomores.
Despite the youth on the current roster, ACU returns a number of experienced starters from last year.
Libero Kelsie Edwards, rightside hitter Kalynne Allen, outside hitter Jennie Hutt, and LSC Freshman of the Year and middle blocker Neely Borger return to this year’s squad. All four saw signifigant playing time in their 2010 seasons.
“We have five new players coming this fall. They are all playing really well so you might see all five on the floor,” Head Coach Kellen Mock said. “The girls are very scrappy. They don’t let down. They are a mentally tough team for their age.”
“We do lack experience,” Borger said. “Losing those three seniors was huge. Fortunately, we have a strong group of freshman this year. We’re coming together as a team and have bonded really well.”
When asked about the intensity of practice, Borger said, “I’ve picked up my intensity level from last year. I have more of a leadership role compared to last season.”
Borger was named an honorable mention conference selection appearing in 118 of 119 possible sets in 2010. In addition, she had 194 kills and 23 aces last year.
Kalynne Allen clocked whereas Hutt achieved 306 kills and 19 aces in 110 sets last season.
The LSC conference isn’t going to be a walk in the park for ACU. West Texas A&M University has won the last five conference titles, while Angelo State Â finished 10-3 last season.
ACU was picked to finish third in the conference. However, they are the only Lone Star Conference team in the pre-season top 25.
“I think the most challenging part of the schedule is the travel itself. Opponent wise, West Texas and Angelo State are going to be very good this year, but there’s not really a team in our conference that isn’t good,” said Mock. “My expectations on the season are the same as they always are. We have to play disciplined and intense volleyball. We need to finish in the top three in the conference at the end of the season and then we need to shoot to win the conference tournament.”
Borger, though, isn’t fazed by the stiff competition. “I’m hoping we can be conference champions. That’s a big goal,” the Amarillo native said.
The Wildcats open their season this weekend, Sept. 2-3 at the St. Mary’s Tournament.
ACU’s first home match is Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. against Incarnate World.