The volleyball team begins its final season of transition to Div. 1 in the Southland Conference. The schedule will begin in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico, Aug. 26.
The Wildcats finished last season with an overall record of 9-20 and a conference record of 9-7, which was good enough for a fourth place finish in the Southland Conference.
This year the preseason polls predict the Wildcats will take a step back after receiving 86 points in the coaches’ poll, which predicts them to finish sixth in the conference. They fared no better in sports information directors poll, receiving in 80 points and ending up in seventh.
After finishing second-to-last in his first year, head coach Jason Bibler coached the Wildcats to an eight spot jump a year ago. Heading into his third year, Bibler wants his team to continue to move forward.
“Definitely for us this year, we really have a good mindset of where we wanna be going forward, so we are definitely focused on that place and where we are trying to go with this program,” Bibler said. “So everything we do day in and day out is really going in that direction.”
Seniors Dorothy Swanson and Lexi Mercier are looking to lead the team this year and are looking to help lay the foundation for the future as the Wildcats will be able to compete in postseason tournaments beginning in 2017 season. Swanson said she hopes she and Mercier can instill in the younger women to “live in the moment.”
“I really want to play every point as if it’s your last point and play every game as if it is your last game,” Swanson said.
Last season, the team put an emphasis on finishing games, but in several games it was the beginning of the game that got them. Swanson said this year they can’t take anything for granted.
“Every team is a big team and going to be hard to play, so I think with that mindset we just go in saying we are the underdog and we have to work hard,” Swanson said.
In 2015, several freshmen made an immediate impact on the team, and four of them played over 100 sets and are looking to pick up where they left off. Sophomore outside hitter Jacey Smith is one of those four freshman to get significant playing time last year and will play a big role on the team.
“I’m feeling really good about this year, and confidence is up,” Smith said. “And I feel really good about the players we have in the gym this year and as a whole just getting better every single day.”
With the goal of continuing to turn heads and prove to the voters last season wasn’t a fluke, Bibler is emphasizing balance.
“The balance on the team is great, the dynamic and the chemistry of the girls is really fantastic, they understand where we wanna be and where we are going and they are all willing to sacrifice and commit to those goals and get there,” Bibler said.
The Wildcats will have numerous opportunities to show the rest of the Southland what they are about right away, when they take on their tough non-conference schedule which includes Texas Tech and Arizona State.