Volleyball Season Preview
A New Era Begins in 2011...
The 2011 Boise State volleyball program enters a new era this season, joining the Mountain West for conference play after participating in the Western Athletic Conference for 10 seasons. The Broncos return 11 players and welcome five newcomers to the team. The talent, athleticism and strength they possess will make for a smooth transition to the new conference.
"The 2011 season will be an exciting one for our program," said head coach Shawn Garus. "The move to the Mountain West is a great opportunity to play against fresh competition. Our returners have worked very hard during the off-season to prepare for this year and they are a very hard-working, competitive group right now."
The Broncos welcome two match-ups a piece with each of the seven Mountain West opponents, playing a one-home one-away series. Overall Boise State hosts 10 home matches, seven in conference play, as well as three non-conference matches against Weber State (Sept. 26), Seattle (Oct. 4) and Utah Valley (Nov.1). Traveling often this season, the Broncos play 20 of their 30 regular-season matches on the road. They begin their 2011 campaign with a 14-match road trip, including three tournaments, two non-conference regular season matches and two conference matches. They wind down their schedule with the MW Tournament held in Albuquerque, N.M., Nov. 18-20.
"Entering the Mountain West will be a good challenge for us," said Garus. "I like that the conference has a tournament this year. It can give us a chance to play well and maybe play our way into the NCAA Tournament."
Playing in big, early-season tournaments puts the Broncos face-to-face with two teams ranked in the 2010 final top-25 rankings. In their second tournament of the season, the Northwest Challenge (Sept. 2-3), Boise State faces Washington who finished last season ranked No. 6. Exactly a week later, the Broncos take on Oklahoma, who finished No. 21, at the Oklahoma Nike Invitational (Sept. 16-17). In their regular season conference play, Boise State will take on Colorado State in a home match, as well as on the road, facing the No. 16-ranked team from 2010 twice.
"The pre-season tournaments will be a challenge for us," explained Garus. "We face a few nationally ranked programs and a couple very successful teams that are returning quality players within the Mountain West schedule."
Helping to lead the way through the tough competition are four seniors, Breann Nesselhuf, Amanda Remy, Elizabeth Griffin and Darlene Nwagbuo. A two-year starting setter for the Broncos, Nesselhuf brings tremendous court experience and leadership to the table. Remy has been a key force in the backcourt for the Broncos, serving as the starting libero for most of the 2010 season. Griffin has been a solid force on the outside in her three years at Boise State, while Nwagbuo brings great athleticism and size to the middle blocker position.
Garus said of his senior class, "Our seniors represent leadership in our program. Breann and Amanda provide tremendous energy and great communication skills on the court. I know they are driven to have their best season yet. Darlene and Elizabeth are great athletes and have a chance to be key contributors on the outside and middle this season. We will have to get a lot of production from these two seniors in order to have the successful season we are looking for."
Joining forces as upperclassmen, the junior class returns many of the team's 2010 key players. Liz Harden will return as an outside and rightside player after starting numerous matches last season. Fiona Jones adds key experience on the outside as well after starting every match in 2010. Kersti Whitney contributes great backcourt experience after sharing time with Remy in the libero position last season. Adding to the talented returners in the junior class, Miranda Bradshaw brings Mountain West experience with her as she transfers from the University of Utah.
"Our junior class is returning a lot of key players for us," said Garus. "Liz is our best outside hitter coming into the fall and Fiona is a key all-around player who started every match for us last year. Kersti is our best returning defensive player and I expect Miranda to make an immediate impact at the middle blocker position this season."
The Broncos' sophomore class is small with only two players, but adds great depth and strength to the already talented roster. Casey Rose returns for her second season in the setter position, while Leah Stevens will return as a key rightside player for the blue and orange.
Garus said, "We have two talented sophomores who didn't get a lot of experience as freshmen. They both have an opportunity to make an impact this fall. Casey is a great setter and very capable of running our offense and doing great things. Leah is very dynamic for us at the net and has a big block and a live arm."
Returning to the roster as redshirt freshmen, Brittany Reardon and Kristyn Kirschenman bring collegiate team experience to the young group of freshmen without having actually played a regular season match. The two redshirted their freshman season in 2010, but practiced with their teammates and played during the 2011 spring season, gaining experience in collegiate play.
"The two redshirts gained a lot of great experience in the spring," explained Garus. "Brittany has a chance to play as a middle blocker this season and Kristyn will make an impact in our defensive specialist and serving areas."
Adding to the group of freshmen are four true newcomers to the collegiate game of volleyball. Katelyn Kinghorn and Anna Muzzy will add strength and depth to the outside hitter position, Taylor Murphey will mirror their work on the right side and Sarah Webster will add talent in the middle blocker position.
"We are looking for great things from our four incoming freshmen," stated Garus. "They are all very good athletes, capable of pushing the returning players for playing time. I am eager to see what they do during our pre-season matches."
With a good base of returning players and a solid class of newcomers, the Broncos look to make a seamless transition to the Mountain West, as well as continue to improve on their successful 21-12 season in 2010.
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