ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson volleyball team opens the 2013 season by squaring off against stiff competition at the FSC/Terrace Hotel Classic, hosted by Florida Southern Friday and Saturday at Jenkins Field House.
The Trojans begin the campaign with a six-match road swing, with four of the contests occurring this weekend in the Sunshine State. The host Moccasins will welcome six teams to Lakeland, Fla. for the season-opening tourney, with four of the teams coming off postseason appearances a year ago.
AU opens the event by facing UW-Parkside Friday at 10 a.m. Friday, then squares off against Florida Southern at 3 p.m. AU plays Northwood at 10 a.m. Saturday and closes out the tournament with a 3 p.m. matchup versus nationally second-ranked Tampa.
The veteran Trojan squad returns seven players, including four junior starters from last season’s 13-17 campaign that have already combined to play nearly 900 sets and start nearly 60 matches each for the Trojans. AU is led by junior setter Meghan Cautero and junior outside hitter Shannon Gillespie. Cautero, who enters the season fifth on the school's all-time chart with 1,810 assists, recorded 1,057 assists, a team-best 26 aces and added 235 digs in 2012, while Gillespie, who earned Second-Team All-SAC honors a year ago and was tabbed a Preseason Second-Team All-SAC honoree, finished sixth in the SAC in kills (355) and is only 119 kills shy of moving into the school's Top-10 list for career kills. Gillespie also recorded 418 digs last year.
The Rangers, who received six votes in the Preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll, feature three returning starters, a returning libero and 11 letterwinners from last season’s squad that posted a 21-10 overall record and a second consecutive appearance in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. Senior outside hitter Bridget Nickel, a Daktronics and AVCA All-Midwest Region selection, led the team in kills with 369 on the season along with a team-best 25 service aces.
FSC Head Coach Jill Stephens’ Moccasins return 11 letterwinners, including five starters, from last season's 22-12 team that finished third in the Sunshine State Conference and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA D-II South Regional. The Moccasins have been tabbed to finish third in the Preseason Sunshine State Conference Coaches’ Poll and earned 16 votes in the Preseason AVCA Coaches Poll.
Northwood went 26-7 a year ago and fell in the first round of the NCAA’s Midwest Regional. The Timberwolves are the defending Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions and posted a stellar 17-1 record in league play last season. They earned the second seed in the NCAA Regional before being upset by seventh-seeded Ashland.
The Spartans finished last season as the NCAA D-II National Runner-Up after falling to six-time defending D-II National Champion, Concordia-St. Paul in five sets in last year's NCAA D-II title match. Tampa was ranked in the top-10 for the entire 2012 season and wrapped up the campaign second in the final AVCA national poll. Tampa is the favorite to win its ninth consecutive Sunshine State Conference title after coming off the program’s third consecutive NCAA South Regional title last year.