|Volleyball opens fall camp|
MOSCOW – Replacing six departed seniors from last year’s team that reached the Western Athletic Conference finals won’t be easy, but after the team’s first practice of the 2013 season on Saturday, Idaho volleyball coach Debbie Buchanan believes the Vandals have the pieces in place for another special year.
“You compare them to other teams in the past, and every team has its special characteristics, and these guys have a great work ethic, their attitudes are in check and they’re competitive and getting after it” Buchanan said. “It’s a good fit with all of those kids and that’s what you have to have. Now we just have to bring the skill level up a little bit.”
Sophomore setter Meredith Coba will run the offense for the first time, replacing Ryann Carter and Jenny Feicht who combined to do the majority of the setting the past three seasons. Alex Sele, a second-team all-WAC pick in 2012, leaves a void in the middle, but senior Taylor Wilkinson, who earned WAC all-tournament team honors last year, is ready to fill those shoes alongside 2012 first-team all-WAC pick Alyssa Schultz. Despite the loss of libero Janelle Chow, Buchanan believes ball-control will be a strength of the 2013 Vandals with the additions of Terra Varney, Samantha Delmer and Samantha Rouleau and Jenna Ellis returning. Allison Baker, a three-time first-team all-WAC pick for the Vandals, and three-year starter Julia Church, will be tough to replace on the outsides, but transfer Tineke Bierma and returnees Katelyn Peterson, Ashley Christman, Ali Forde and Jessica Hastriter will compete for those spots.
“It’s nice, we’ve got four kids who are competing for the primary passers and liberos,” Buchanan said. “We’ve got kids competing on the outside, kids competing on the right side. When you look at all those pieces, we’re going to be able to put something together that’s pretty special.”
After a redshirt season in 2011 and sitting behind Feicht and Carter in 2012, Coba is ready for her turn as Idaho’s setter, and Buchanan is excited about what she can bring to the table.
“I’m 100 percent behind her,” Buchanan said of Coba. “She has improved so much just from last spring. Having three setters last fall was really hard, and that’s something you don’t really want to have because it’s really hard to share that time. She has really stepped in and done some really good things. Honestly, she’s further along than I thought she would be and she’s making some great decisions. It’s what we envisioned when we were recruiting her.”
Part of Coba’s job this fall will be to run a faster-paced offense that includes more distribution to the middles, and with improved ball-control this year, Buchanan believes the system will be even more efficient.
“Through this whole spring we’ve worked on getting our setters up to the net faster, running a faster offense and getting our middles more involved,” Buchanan said. “Our middles are to the point where they’re doing those things. Now we just have to pass to keep it consistent, and that’s one area that we have the potential to do better this year. Passing-wise we’re a lot better than we were last year.”
The Vandals return seven letter-winners and one redshirt from last season, and have seven newcomers, although Stephanie Hagins, a transfer from Hawai`i will have to sit out the 2013 season and Buchanan would like to redshirt Torrin Crawford if possible. Idaho will practice 10 times a week for the next two weeks and open the season at the UniWyo Wyoming Invite in Laramie, Wyo., on Aug. 30.