Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina is just days away from opening the 2014 season in tournament action in the Radisson UCF Invitational. CatamountSports.com had a chance to catch-up with head coach Karen Glover to introduce the team by year in school.
Today's installment includes the seven underclassmen, looking at both the two sophomores and five freshmen on the court for the Purple & Gold.
"With our underclassmen, some will have a chance to contribute right away on the court - but all have immediately added depth and a more competitive environment to our gym," began Glover. "I am definitely looking forward to this season. I think this is a special group and I think all the fans will enjoy watching this team on the court."
WCU's lineup features two, second-year players in sophomores Lauren Saxby and Courtney Ireland. The two saw limited court time a season ago, appearing in a combined 13 matches and 21 sets as freshmen in 2013. A product of Raleigh, Saxby tallied six kills with a couple of digs and a block assist during her time on the court, while Ireland played in four total matches and six sets, serving nine times with one total attack.
"Our sophomores - Lauren Saxby and Courtney Ireland - both continue to improve daily," said Glover. "Lauren has a ton of power and is becoming smarter as a hitter. Courtney was a middle blocker in high school, and is quickly adapting to the pin hitter position. She is showing herself to be equally effective from the right or left side."
Ireland finished with nine kills while Saxby recorded eight kills with numerous strong swings during the intrasquad scrimmage back on August 24, showcasing their improvements from a season ago.
Glover has a total of five incoming freshmen for 2014, her fourth recruiting class at WCU. Middle blockers Kaycey Cermin (College Station, Texas) and Katie O'Connor (Cartersville, Ga.), defensive specialists Lucy Lambert (Matthews, N.C.) and Reeve Reinsborough (Dallas, Texas) and setter Jo-Leigh Vervelde (Oostburg, Wisc.) comprise roughly 35-percent of the 14-player roster.
"We've got a very talented freshmen class, and I look forward to the next four years with them," Glover said. "I am very pleased with how the freshmen have come in and are handling themselves through preseason camp and the start of the semester."
During the squad's scrimmage, Vervelde impressed with a strong serve, securing five aces to lead all players and to complement her double-double effort of 35 assist and 20 digs. The Wisconsin native was named All-Area by the Sheboygan Press and was a first team selection on the MaxPreps 2013 Volleyball Small Schools All-America team as an all-around player.
"Jo-Leigh Vervelde is already making an impact and I expect her to split time with Tina (Nazario) running the offense from the setter position," said Glover.
Cermin comes from a winning background as she was part of a team that was a two-time area finalist and three-time district champions. She earned recognition from LoneStarVolleyball.com her final two seasons as a prep. During the scrimmage, Cermin tallied 10 kills, while O'Connor led WCU in the intrasquad with five total blocks, adding six kills. O'Connor was named All-Bartow County and the most valuable player twice in her final two seasons in high school.
"Kaycey Cermin and Katie O'Connor are doing a great job adjusting to this level, and are both strong additions at the middle blocker position. Kaycey may also see some time on the right side," commented Glover.
Rounding out the five newcomers are defensive specialists in Lambert and Reinsborough. Lambert spent the preseason intrasquad scrimmage as a libero, donning the different colored jersey in the back of the WCU side. She finished with 18 digs, just one shy of the match-high. Hailing from the Charlotte area, she was an all-conference performer at Charlotte Christian.
Reinsborough has been injured much of the preseason, going through rehabilitation exercises in adjusting to the college game. She helped guide Parish Episcopal High to the TAPPS 4-A State Playoffs all four years of her prep career, earning all-district accolades as a sophomore and all-state honors in her junior year.
Western Carolina opens regular season play on Friday, Aug. 29 in tournament action in Orlando, Fla., in the Radisson UCF Invitational. The Catamounts face Florida International at Noon on Aug. 29, before facing the host Knights at the Venue at UCF at 7:30 pm. WCU wraps up tournament play against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Aug. 30.
The first home match for the volleyball Catamounts is Tuesday, Sept. 9 against in-state foe, Charlotte, at 7:00 pm in the Ramsey Center main arena.
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