After finishing as the runner-up in last year’s ASC tournament, the volleyball team is looking to move past last season’s finish and get back into championship form.
Losing only two starters after a 22-11 campaign, the team — which has been picked to win the ASC East — returns with experience to start the season. Still, head coach Marci Sanders is less concerned with the Comets’ performance than she is with the play of the rest of the ASC field.
“You can always guarantee us to be slow and steady and always trying to improve, but you never know what everyone else is going to do,” she said. “So the expectations remain the same year to year.”
Sanders, who spent the summer working with the U.S. women’s national volleyball team, will be bringing several of the techniques from her time with the squad to help improve UTD’s on-court performance. Some of these new methods include looking at practice and game footage to help point out minute details that players need to improve.
More importantly, Sanders will be implementing a new, faster style of play this year to increase the tempo and pace of ball movement. She said losing Taylour Toso, the six-foot outside hitter who was last year’s conference MVP, has forced the Comets to find other ways to score besides relying on height.
“We aren’t a very big team,” Sanders said. “I would say we’re definitely, on average, below six (feet tall) … We are small, so we know we can’t really try to set it high and jump as high as our opponents, so we’ve got to be a little bit faster in transition.”
Senior setter and team captain Kayla Jordan said the team has adjusted to the new style of play despite some initial struggles.
“It was hard getting used to at first, but I think now as we’ve gone through a lot of reps and stuff we’re getting the hang of it,” she said. “The faster offense does help a lot with how we’re running things.”
Despite these changes, the team will still be relying on some old faces to form the main support system heading into the year. Junior outside hitter and captain Abbie Barth, who sat out all of last year due to injuries, will be coming back to the court and taking a big role on the offensive side of the net. Before she got hurt, Barth started all 40 matches of her sophomore season for the Comets and was named to the All-ASC second team after averaging 2.66 kills per set.
Even though she had to take a spot on the sideline last season, Barth said the time was not wasted.
“I know whenever I got hurt I kind of felt like I let the team down because I wasn’t strong enough or whatever,” she said. “(The) positive is that by sitting on the sideline and watching I think I learned a lot just watching and experiencing the sideline culture.”
With so many changes and returning talent, the team has high expectations for what it wants to accomplish this season. Junior middle blocker and captain Michelle Toro said the Comets want to take home a conference championship.
“We’ve been there so many times and have been expected to win so many times,” she said. “It’s due. We’re overdue for a ring.”