Updated Aug 26, 2005 12:46:13
Lady Techster Volleyball to Host Louisiana Tech Invitational Saturday
Junior Ambra Hayes will be Tech's leading offensive returnee with 2.54 kills per game last year.
On the heels of what Tech head coach Heather Mazeitis called the best preseason of her career, the Lady Techster volleyball team looks to start the 2005 season with a couple of wins, when it hosts Northwestern State and Baylor in the Louisiana Tech Invitational this Saturday.
The Lady Techsters will open the invitational with a match-up against Northwestern State at 11 a.m., following Tech football’s scrimmage and Family Day in Joe Aillet Stadium. Baylor and Northwestern State will follow with a contest at 3 p.m., before the Lady Techsters wrap up the round-robin invitational against Baylor at 7 p.m.
The Lady Techsters have been practicing for almost three weeks, enduring two-a-days and preparing for the season opener. Now, Mazeitis said her team is ready to get on the court and show people they can play.
“The excitement is up around this team,” Mazeitis said. “They’re not nervous, they’re excited. The girls are ready to show what they can do, and they’re ready to compete against an opponent other than themselves.
“I’m sure there will be anxious moments because we have some young kids, but I know they’ll play hard. Preseason has been difficult, battling injuries and fatigue, but this team is fun to watch and they are driven to succeed.”
The Lady Techsters will walk onto the court with more new faces than old, as Tech welcomes seven newcomers to the squad, including Meghan Haas, Maria Romanowski, Deidre Doggett, Carly Johnson, Anielle Da Silva, Lauren Gustafson and Brittney Nakamura.
Junior Ambra Hayes is the leading returnee on offense, as the 5-10, outside hitter was second on the team in kills last year with 201 kills in 79 games for a 2.54 average.
Other returnees include sophomore Shannon Phillips, senior Stacey Clark, junior Sabrina Sims and sophomore Jillann Walker.
Phillips, who started 22 matches at middle blocker as a true freshman last year, recorded 130 kills and 1.69 kills per game, and Clark, the lone senior on the team, posted 10 kills.
Mazeitis looks for Sims to be a defensive specialist, while Walker returns as the team’s starting setter, after splitting time with Rhyann Enny last year and recording 8.56 assists per game in 27 games.
After finishing last year with a 6-21 overall record and 1-12 mark in the Western Athletic Conference, the Lady Techsters look to start this season off with a win against Northwestern State (12-20, 8-12 Southland), which Mazeitis knows will be a challenge.
“Northwestern is always fun to play,” Mazeitis said. “The two teams are very familiar because we’ve played each other so often. They’re always very competitive, fiery and emotional. We’ll just have to make sure we keep our cool, play our game and play hard.”
The Lady Demons retain most of their firepower from last year, as their top five players in kills return, led by sophomore Whitney King who led the team with 3.55 kills per game.
Baylor (12-19, 4-16 Big XII) returns five starters as well, led by Nicole LeBlanc and Desiree Guilliard-Young, who posted 2.98 and 2.87 kills per game, respectively.
“Baylor can give us problems because they’re bigger,” Mazeitis said. “They’ll be a good test for our middle blockers and defense. We’ll have to keep control of the ball and make sure our defense stays intact.”
The matches will be played in the Thomas Assembly Center immediately after Family Day. Admission is free, and all Tech fans are encouraged to attend.
“Attendance is like the seventh man,” Mazeitis said. “If you talk to anybody in our conference, they’ll tell you how fun it is to play here because of our fans. I think the draw will be a little different this year because people will see the excitement of the team. People will see excitement from someone like Anielle (Da Silva), who is a good player, but she’s also fun to watch. She plays with so much emotion, and I think she’ll get the team and crowd more involved in the game.”