|Volleyball gears up for opener|
MOSCOW, Idaho -- The Idaho volleyball team has seen how it stacks up against itself in practice over the past 18 days. Now, it’s time for the Vandals to see how they fare against a different opposition, as Idaho opens its 2013 season Friday at the UniWyo Wyoming Invite where it will face Montana State, Wyoming, Drake and Stetson.
“They’re excited to go, we need to be challenged in a different way,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said of her team. “We need to play some teams and see where our weaknesses are. Every year there’s always a new excitement for the group of girls that you have, and that’s why we do it and that’s why I’m here. Right now it’s a pretty special group. People are going to want to come watch them.”
The Vandals get things started at 10 a.m. (PT) on Aug. 30 against Montana. Idaho is 28-9 all-time against its former and future Big Sky Conference foe. The Vandals will face host Wyoming in the night-cap on Friday at 6 p.m. (PT). The Cowgirls went 21-11 in 2012 and are the only team in the tournament with a final 2012 RPI (92) higher than Idaho’s (116). Idaho will start the day on Aug. 31 against Drake at 10 a.m. (PT), of the Missouri Valley Conference in the first all-time meeting between the schools. Drake went 5-24 in 2012. In Idaho’s final match of the tournament, the Vandals will take on Stetson (Aug. 31/4 p.m.), another opponent Idaho has never faced. The Hatters went 4-31 in 2012 but return five starters. Live stats will be available for all four of Idaho’s matches during the tournament, and there will be a live video stream available online for Idaho’s match against Wyoming, both can be found at www.GoWyo.com.
Buchanan hopes to display a balanced offense in 2013 that poses a threat with its middles, making opponents choose to either stop the outsides or the middles. With two preseason all-Western Athletic Conference middle blockers in Alyssa Schultz; also the Preseason WAC Player of the Year; and Taylor Wilkinson, she believes she has the personnel to execute that game plan.
“Everyone is important, especially in volleyball, but I think our middles are going to be huge for us this year with Alyssa Schultz and Taylor Wilkinson,” she said. “If we can pass and run the offense like we want to, our middles should be pretty hard to stop. But again, our outside hitters have to be on, we need everybody to be doing their job in order to be successful.”
Schultz , who enters 2013 as Idaho’s career leader in hitting percentage at .325, credits her success to the system and coaching staff.
“Every day the middles and setters work for about an hour separately, so we get about 100 reps a day,” Schultz said. “Coach (Brian) Lamppa started teaching us a faster offense, which we all bought into and that’s honestly what has made me successful because we’re fast enough to beat the other block. We have to keep working hard every play to keep our outsides open.”
Wilkinson will be starting at Idaho for the first time, replacing two-time second-team all-WAC middle Alex Sele, but Schultz has no doubt that Wilkinson will be successful.
“Those are tough shoes to fill but Taylor is more than equipped to fill them,” Schultz said. “She’s working hard every day, she makes me better and I make her better. She’s really smart, makes good decisions and she’s always out-working everyone else.”
Redshirt-sophomore setter Meredith Coba will be Idaho’s primary setter for the first time in her career after sitting behind Jenny Feicht and Ryann Carter the past two seasons, including a redshirt season in 2011. Coba is ready and more than excited for the opportunity.
”I’ve worked two years to get to this spot, so I’ve been waiting and it feels good that the time is finally here for me to run the offense,” she said. “We just want to go out there and play our game. That’s what our focus is on during preseason, controlling what we can control on our side of the court.”
The Vandals also have tournaments at Northern Arizona (Sept. 6-7), Boise State (Sept. 12-14) and Washington State (Sept. 19-20) before their home and WAC opener against Utah Valley on Sept. 26.