ANDERSON, S.C. – If game experience and potential is any indication, the Anderson University volleyball team is on the eve of a successful and exciting campaign in 2013.
Head coach Craig Mosqueda, who is entering his fifth season at the helm of the Trojan program, boasts a veteran squad that returns eight players with a wealth of experience, including four juniors who have already combined to play in nearly 900 sets in just two seasons and started nearly 60 matches apiece during their first two seasons.
The Trojans are poised to capitalize on their potential as they begin the 2013 campaign. With a talented nucleus returning to the AU lineup, Mosqueda and the Trojans will be looking to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish in the South Atlantic Conference after seeing 17 contests reach at least four sets a year ago.
“We had a very productive and successful spring schedule,” Mosqueda said. “We are looking forward to seeing how well and how fast everything comes together with the experience we gained and with the incoming players. Our newcomers have good experience and will compete for spots and give us depth immediately. With five juniors in the starting lineup, our strength will be experience.”
Staying focused and finishing will be a key for the Trojans.
“One of our goals is to be one of top four teams in the SAC this season,” Mosqueda added. “We play a tough schedule and if we finish well, it should be strong enough to get us into the NCAA Southeast Regional.”
Mosqueda will again rely on Meghan Cautero (Jr., 5-9, S) to set the table for her teammates this season, with the junior having seen action in all 60 matches during her first two seasons wearing the Black and Gold. She already ranks fifth all-time in the school record books with 1,810 assists after handing out more than a thousand assists last season alone. The Naples, Fla. native should move into fourth place early in the season, needing just 47 assists. She posted a career-best 55 handouts at Lenoir-Rhyne a year ago and recorded at least 30 assists on 22 occasions last season.
Replacing former standout Tiffany Rowe, one of the most prolific middle blockers in AU history, will be a challenge but Mosqueda expects junior Hailey Pittman (Jr., 5-10, MB) to again play a key role in the middle for the Trojans. Another returner, Cameron Ohls (So., 5-11, MB), turned in an impressive spring campaign and will compete for playing time along with incoming freshman Jessica Harris, a 5-foot-11 middle blocker from Franklinton High School in North Carolina. Another newcomer, Allison Gaminde, has played in the middle during her entire career, but Mosqueda sees the left-hander also garnering playing time as a rightside hitter.
Pittman is formidable threat both offensively and defensively after finishing last season 10th in the conference with 329 kills and was second on the squad with 38 total blocks. She ripped 15 service aces and displayed the best accuracy on the team, leading the team in attack percentage on seven occasions, including a team season-high .550 versus Barton in early September. Ohls played in 13 matches last season, including 20 sets, and notched eight kills and two block assists. Junior middle blocker Sarah Eckert saw action in six contests last season and will add depth and experience to the middle after a solid spring campaign.
Shannon Gillespie (Jr., 5-10, OH) earned Second-Team All-SAC accolades following her second consecutive stellar season a year ago. The Fishers, Ind. native gave posed problems for opponents, ranking sixth in the conference with 355 in kills and leading the Trojans in kills 10 times. She concluded last season needing just 119 kills to move into the top-10 in AU’s all-time record books and holds the school record for attack attempts in a single match with 82 at Lenoir-Rhyne.
Kelley Lacey (Jr., 5-9, RS), will hold down the rightside spot as well as attack from the outside after seeing action in 29 matches and recording 139 kills, 38 total blocks and 18 service aces last season. The Trojans will welcome Priscilla Irizarry to the court after the Moca, Puerto Rico native redshirted last season, providing an additional weapon in Mosqueda’s arsenal. Gaminde will see playing time on the rightside as well as in the middle after earning SCISA State Player of the Year honors twice during her prep career. A pair of talented and athletic newcomers, Tinsley Hallman and Alicia Lewis will enhance the Trojans’ depth at outside hitter in 2013. A 5-foot-11 transfer from Gardner-Webb University, Hallman led her Wando Warriors to a 33-6-1 overall record during her senior season, while Lewis, a true freshman, helped lead her Warner Christian Eagles to three consecutive state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Another team leader, Alix Hooker (Jr., 5-6, DS/L), along with incoming freshman Taylor Underwood, will be patrolling the backcourt this season, with Mosqueda again being able call upon Lacey to play the libero spot after the versatile junior ranked third on the team last season with 314 digs. Hooker has played in every match during her two seasons with the Trojans and led the team with 552 digs last season, while ranking 54th in the nation in digs per set. The Plant City, Fla., native tied the school record with 32 digs in a single match at Lenoir-Rhyne last September. Sophomore Sarah Kivett turned in a solid spring season and is expected to provide valuable depth and experience defensively after playing in 12 matches a year ago and posting nine digs on the season.
Following a pair of scrimmages during the last week of August, the Trojans open the season with a six-match road swing, beginning at the FSC/Terrace Hotel Volleyball Classic in Lakeland, Fla. on Sept. 6-7. Anderson will tip off the Classic versus UW-Parkside, then wraps up the first day of competition versus host Florida Southern. Northwood (Michigan) will be the next challenge for the Trojans and AU wraps up its nonconference road slate against defending NCAA D-II National Runner-up Tampa. The veteran squad will be battle-tested as it gets into its conference slate quickly with five straight league matchups. The Trojans open the league schedule on the road at league newcomer Coker on Friday, Sept. 13 and close their season-opening road swing at seven-time defending league champion Wingate.
Lincoln Memorial will invade the Abney Athletic Center for AU’s home opener (Sept. 20) and the Trojans close the brief two-game homestand by playing host to Carson-Newman on Sept. 21. Anderson then goes on the road to face Brevard and first-year head coach Kelly Burdeau on Sept. 27 before returning home to open the Trojans’ longest homestand of the season against longtime rival Erskine in a nonconference contest four days later. Mars Hill visits the Abney Center on Oct. 4, while AU plays host to Tusculum on Saturday, Oct. 5. The homestand concludes with yet another 2012 NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament participant, as Newberry visits AU for a Tuesday night matchup on Oct. 8. Anderson visits Queens on Oct. 11 and wraps up the first half of the SAC double round-robin slate at Catawba on Oct. 12, then begins the second half of the conference schedule with home matchups versus Coker on Oct. 18 and a Homecoming contest versus Wingate (Oct. 19). The Trojans open a three-match road swing at Lenoir-Rhyne on Oct. 22.
Following SAC road matchups at LMU and Carson-Newman, Anderson closes out the month of October by welcoming Peach Belt opponent Lander to the Abney Center on Oct. 29. The Trojans close out their regular-season slate against another PBC foe, as Georgia Regents University – Augusta, formerly Augusta State, will visit the Abney Center for Senior Day on Nov. 16, with Catawba also making an appearance in the first contest of a doubleheader that afternoon. The conference tournament is slated for Nov. 22-24 on the campus of Newberry College.