Charleston, S.C. – The Citadel volleyball team opens the 2012 season on Friday when it heads to Las Vegas to participate in the UNLV Tournament. The two-day event begins when the Dogs square off with Northern Arizona before facing host UNLV and Cal State-Bakersfield for the first time in program history.
This weekend opens the 15th season of Citadel volleyball, which consists of a solid mix of both youth and experience. The Bulldogs welcome five freshmen and return five sophomores from 2011 to go along with four seniors and one junior, all of whom have one year of experience in head coach Amir Khaledi's system.
The middle hitter position will be anchored by senior Jessica Maxwell, who finished with 45 total blocks, highlighted by a seven-block outing against Alabama State.
The tandem of Emily Dalton and Erin Bucherl highlight the defensive specialist position. Dalton was one of three players to appear in 100 sets for the Cadets last season, producing single-season career highs in digs (179), service aces (25) and assists (13).
"The team has been working very hard to incorporate the newcomers into the offense," said Khaledi. "The freshmen have done a solid job of acclimating themselves to the system and familiarizing themselves with returning players. We are very fortunate to have an experienced team returning from last season, with four starters that are familiar with our concept. That will be very beneficial in the early stages of the season as we make these adjustments with the freshmen class."
Northern Arizona (15-10 Overall, 6-10 Big Sky Conference)
Match Date: Friday, Aug. 24, 8 p.m.
Coming off a seventh-place conference finish in 2011, the NAU volleyball team has been picked to finish eighth out of 11 teams in the newly expanded Big Sky by the conference coaches.
The Lumberjacks are looking to reach the conference tournament for the first time since 2007 and return four starters (plus libero) and eight letter winners from the 2011 squad. The team is led by five seniors to go along with three returning sophomores and four newcomers with Choate's first NAU recruiting class serving as upperclassmen.
UNLV (14-17 Overall, 4-10 Mountain West Conference)
Match Date: Saturday, Aug. 25, 3 p.m.
The UNLV volleyball team was selected to finish fifth overall this season in the 2012 Mountain West Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's nine head coaches.
UNLV closed out last season with a Cinderella-like run at the 2011 Mountain West Championship. After a seventh-place finish in conference action, the Rebels knocked off second-seeded San Diego State (3-0 sweep) and third-seeded TCU (3-1). UNLV's inspiring run came to an end with a loss to Colorado State in the tournament finale.
The 2012 edition returns eight letter winners, which includes six starters, from last season's campaign. Cindy Fredrick's squad will feature three juniors - Madeline Westman (2011 All-MW), Candice Thomas (2011 All-MW Tournament) and Stephanie Thelen (2011 All-MW Tournament) - that earned postseason accolades.
In all, the roster will be 14 strong with six newcomers sprinkled into the mix. Five of the fresh-faced players are freshmen, while the sixth, Siga Appelgate, is a Las Vegas local that played her first two years at Pacific.
CSU Bakersfield (8-18 Overall, Independent)
Match Date: Saturday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m.
In 2011, CSU Bakersfield rebounded from a winless 2010 season to post an 8-18 record under first-year head coach Jolene Shepardson. This gave the Roadrunners the distinction of being the sixth-most improved team in NCAA Division I program in the country.
According to the NCAA, CSUB's jump of going from 0-31 in 2010 to 8-18 in 2011 has an improved number of 10.5. The improved figure is determined by adding the difference in victories between the two seasons to the difference in losses, which is then divided by two.
One of the keys for the Roadrunners success centered around the outstanding play of junior outside hitter Haleigh Haratyk.
One of the best attackers in the country, Haratyk ranked seventh nationally in average kills per set with 4.82. She also ranked ninth in the NCAA in average points per set with 5.28. The 4.82 kill average is fifth best in a single season in CSUB's history.
Citadel fans will have their first opportunity to preview the 2012 team when the Bulldogs host the traditional Blue-White scrimmage on Aug. 28.
For more information on Bulldog volleyball, visit the official website of The Citadel Athletics at www.citadelsports.com.