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 three juniors and four seniors on the court for the Purple & Gold.
Western Carolina's senior class includes four-year starters in outside hitters Jordan Timmermann - a preseason All-Southern Conference selection - and Caitlin Piechota, who is just 138 kills shy of 1,000 for her career. The duo is flanked by two-year starter - and another preseason All-SoCon honoree - middle blocker Addy George and three-year letter winner, Brandi Anderson, who is coming off of the best season of her career.
George, Piechota and Timmermann were all named team captains prior to the 2014 season.
"I can't say enough about this senior class," said Glover. "This was my first group of recruits at Western Carolina, so it has been great to see them grow as volleyball players and as people. We are counting on their leadership for our success this season."
Timmermann and Piechota ranked first-and-second on the squad a year ago in kills, recording 374 and 274, respectively. Timmermann garnered post-season all-conference accolades in 2013, leading WCU - and ranking fourth in the league - with a 3.37 kills per set average. She added 220 digs, second among WCU's returners. Piechota was second with a 2.47 kills per set average, and is tops among the returning players with 323 digs and a 2.91 dig per set average.
In WCU's preseason intrasquad scrimmage, Timmerman was credited with a double-double, collecting 11 kills and 13 digs while classmate Piechota just missed the double-dip with a match-high 16 kills and nine digs.
"Jordan Timmermann and Caitlin Piechota have been the starting outsides since their freshman year. We rely on them so heavily offensively and defensively, and they are really emerging as leaders this year," said Glover.
George paced both WCU and the SoCon at the net a season ago, leading the way with 137 total blocks including a team-best 27 solo. Her 1.28 block per set mark led her squad and the league. Offensively, the middle blocker from Aberdeen, N.C., ranked third on the WCU squad with 259 kills and a 2.42 average per set. Anderson as a right-side hitter played in 30 of the team's 31 matches last season posting career numbers with 145 kills, 44 total blocks and 36 digs.
George racked up nine kills and four blocks in the intrasquad scrimmage while Anderson had seven kills and two block assists.
"Addy George has really found her niche as a middle, and has emerged as one of the best in our conference. I expect her to have another strong season," said Glover. "Brandi Anderson is coming into her own, and I expect big things from her this season."
WCU has three juniors, two of whom are among the returning starting rotation in setter Cristina Nazario and middle blocker Nicole Ford. They are joined by libero Elyssa Mulheron, who is anticipated to take over the starting role along the defensive back line.
Ford secured 178 kills (1.71 avg.) a season ago with 93 total blocks (0.89 avg.), second only to George for the Catamounts, while Nazario played in all 111 sets, averaging 10.14 assists per set, sixth in the SoCon. Mulheron has played in 112 career sets over her first two seasons including 72 in 24 matches a year ago with one start. She averages just under a dig per set with 106 over the first two years in playing WCU's all-time career digs leader, the since-graduated Morgan Cochran.
"Tina Nazario came in as a freshman and won the starting setter job. She has done a great job running the offense and continues to develop the defensive side of her game," said Glover. "Nicole Ford is such an athletic middle and is continuing to refine her game. I think she will be more of an offensive threat this season."
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.
Fans can keep track of Catamount Athletics through social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Twitter (@catamounts), YouTube (CatamountSports) and Instagram (wcu_catamounts).