Position Breakdown: Outside Hitter
Aug. 23, 2010
Check back all week for position-by-position previews. Look for the preview of Tech's middle blockers on Tuesday.
Ruston, La.- Losing just one starter from last year's team that won 15 matches, the most since 2005, Louisiana Tech aims to improve upon last year's success as they look toward the upcoming 2010 season.
"We're not going to have one player who is the shining star and everybody else is kind of helping her," said head coach Matt Sonnichsen. "We're not going to have someone who is averaging eight kills a game; however, we are going to have 12 or 13 players that are all going to do their job to make us better."
With the influx of three newcomers to a roster that already features 10 returning letterwinners, expectations are high on the Ruston campus. The main reason for these raised expectations are due to hard-work, dedication and a coaching staff that legitimately cares for the well-being and prosperity of their student-athletes.
"I think that Christy Stegall has done a great job and I think the program in general has done a good job of getting good players that are good people," said Sonnichsen. "They are unselfish, they work hard, they are supportive of each other and they have fun. I think if you put that together with God-given talent, some good things can happen. That is the direction that we want to go with the program."
With four returning letterwinners, the outside hitter position will feature one newcomer this season that will be expected to add immediate depth to a talented roster and perhaps push for a slot in the starting lineup.
Although she is recovering well from off-season shoulder surgery, junior Nataliya Panova, an all-Louisiana and Newcomer of the Year honoree by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, will miss the upcoming 2010 season and will redshirt. As a transfer from the University of Houston, Panova finished the season ranked first on the team and second in the WAC with 10 double-doubles, leading all Lady Techsters with 284 kills while finishing second on the team with 322 digs and 19 service aces.
With Panova's absence, incoming freshman and Brazilian native, Clara Vido will be called upon to contribute immediately to a position that already features three returning starters, headlined by seniors Jennifer Goodwin and Kassia Pinto.
"We should have plenty of experience at the outside hitter position and Clara Vido should empower the veterans to take their game to new heights," said Sonnichsen. "This year, our student-athletes will be expected to be consistent in their abilities."
Amongst the returning starters, Goodwin started 32 matches while playing in all 33 as a transfer from Blinn College. She finished fifth on the team with 164 kills and third with 284 digs, recording a season-high six blocks and 17 digs in a match versus Jacksonville.
Starting 26 matches while seeing action in 29, Pinto returns to the team after finishing second on the team and fifth in the WAC with seven double-doubles. Leading all Lady Techsters with 27 service aces, Pinto finished the 2009 campaign ranked third on the team with 175 kills and fourth on the team with 272 digs. With Panova missing time due to injury, Pinto will play a critical role in the success of the Lady Techsters this season as she hopes to improve upon her 2009 season.
Also returning this season to Louisiana Tech is senior Taylor Fritz. The Spring, Texas native provided depth and a spark off of the bench for the Lady Techsters as she played in 22 matches last season, contributing 40 kills and 71 digs to the squad. Fritz will provide much needed depth to the outside hitter position for the 2010 campaign.
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