ETSU volleyball readies for season opener
ETSU volleyball readies for season opener
Thursday, August 24, 2006

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AUGUST 24, 2006) - After completing one of the most successful seasons in recent history in 2005, the 2006 version of the ETSU volleyball team will be looking to build on the strides it made in 2005, and continue its quest to the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference.  That quest begins this weekend as the Bucs open up their 2006 slate at the Charlotte Classic.  ETSU starts play Friday evening with a 7 pm match against the host Charlotte 49ers, and concludes with a 1 pm Saturday afternoon tilt against Atlantic Coast Conference opponent North Carolina State.


"We're better prepared this season," said fourth-year head coach Lindsey Devine.  "Last year being our first season in the A-Sun, we were walking into the unknown, but this year we're returning six starters that saw considerable court time last season and that is really going to help our confidence heading into the new season."


With the return of those starters, the addition of several new recruits and the momentum gained coming off the first winning season since 2001, expectations are high for the program to achieve new heights in 2006.


"We've brought in some key players that are mature and have already seen high level volleyball in their competitive careers," said Devine.  "We had a very successful spring that laid the foundation for a stronger faster team in the coming season."


Despite qualifying for the conference tournament in their first season in the A-Sun, a disappointing first round exit has the Lady Bucs hungry for even greater success against conference opposition this season.


"It's not rewarding enough to just play well anymore," said Devine.  "We had a taste of a successful season last year, but it wasn't good enough, and now our expectations for ourselves are higher.  We know what it takes to win, and we expect to win."



The Lady Bucs return a solid senior contingent this season, led by four-year starter, and second-team all-conference selection Jennifer Sartor (Toronto, Ontario).  Sartor had a breakout year both offensively and defensively, leading the team in total kills, and kills per game, as well as blocks and blocks per frame.  The then-junior set career-best season totals in kills (398), attacks (929), digs (295), and blocks (113).


"Jennifer had a very successful 2005," said Devine.  "She has worked extremely hard in the middle position throughout her career and that really started to show last season.  In addition to her all-conference selection, she was also named a Player of the Week, and she just continues to get stronger each season."


Outside hitter Sarah Buhr (Stockton, Calif.), who transferred to ETSU last season, also returns as one of the Lady Bucs' top offensive threats, averaging 3.09 kills per game in 2005.  Buhr had a career-best 20 kills against Coastal Carolina, the highest single-match total of the season.  The senior also proved to be a consistent defender, leading the team with 306 digs on the year.  Buhr was one of the team's most potent servers, collecting a team-best 43 aces for the season.


"Sarah saw a lot of time at the outside position last year," said Devine.  "She swings hard and is one of our primary ball controllers.  She knows the game very well, and leads by example, bringing that volleyball sense to the court."


Jennifer Emerson (Santa Clara, Calif.), who will be playing her second season with the Lady Bucs this fall, had an impressive season at setter last fall, dishing out a total of 1,005 assists for an average of 8.31 per game.  Emerson, an outstanding team leader, can also contribute on the defensive end, adding 292 digs for the season, 2.41 per game.


"Jennifer has the heart of a lion, and continually sets high standards for herself that she both meets and exceeds," said Devine.  "She worked extremely hard in our spring season, and brings a ton of energy to the court."


Rounding out the senior class is Crystal Palmer (Chico, Calif.), who also had a stellar opening campaign with the Lady Bucs last season.  Palmer belted 192 kills in 2005, posting a season-best 14 against Campbell.  The then-junior played in 103 of the Lady Bucs' 121 games.


"Crystal is one of the most athletic girls on our team," said Devine.  "She has worked hard raising the level of her play in the front row, and we are going to lean on her as one of our main offensive weapons this season.  She will be one of our key players that we look to for terminating rallies."              



Filling out the junior class for the 2006 season are Callie Kiselich (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Michelle Mislan (Indianapolis, Ind.).  Kiselich, a talented middle blocker, has two solid years of play under her belt, finishing out her sophomore campaign with 319 kills and 110 blocks.  The then-sophomore recorded the second most blocks on the team behind Sartor, and managed 18 block solos on the season.  Also a solid defender, Kiselich contributed a career-best 296 digs in 2005, averaging a team-best 2.47 per frame.


"Callie posted great numbers in '05," said Devine.  "She has worked extremely hard in the offseason, and knows that she has more talent that she can release this season.  She puts up great blocks for the team, and is one of our best defensive players."


Mislan, who saw action in 53 games last season, will be vying for playing time at both the right-side and outside hitter slots.  During her sophomore campaign, Mislan recorded 59 kills and 16 blocks, both career-high totals.  Mislan's best match came against Lincoln Memorial when she added nine kills and three blocks.


"Michelle has really increased her confidence in the spring and summer," said Devine.  "She knows one of her primary roles is putting up blocks to terminate rallies, and she has worked very hard at improving that aspect of her game."



Once again, a wealth of newcomers will don the ETSU uniform this fall, with three transfers and a pair of freshmen joining the Lady Buc roster.  Adding to the outside hitter contingent will be junior Kaena Apana (Waianae, H.I.), a transfer from Taft Junior College in Taft, Calif.  Apana was a second-team All-America selection, as well as an All-Central Valley Conference, and All-North Cal honoree.  She recorded a .358 hitting percentage, along with 5.22 kills per game in her final year with the Cougars.  Apana also collected 371 digs in 2005, averaging 5.01 per frame.


"Kaena is a JUCO All-American who comes from a great JUCO system," said Devine.  She reads hitters very well, and we will look to her to help control the ball and run our offense."


The Lady Bucs also add junior transfer Marissa Mortensen, a 5'9" right-side setter from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill.  Mortensen earned two all-region selections in her junior college career after a high school career that saw her honored as both an all-area and all-conference selection.


"We expect Marissa to fight for the setting position," said Devine.  "She knows the game very well and runs a solid offense."


Freshman Kristan Provchy (Norton, Ohio) will make the trip to Johnson City from Norton, Ohio, where she played the middle blocker and outside hitter positions at Norton High School.  Provchy recorded 207 blocks and 421 kills in her final two prep seasons, and was first team All-Portage Trail Conference and second team All-District during her senior year.


"Kristan is going to push our middles to raise their level of play this season," said Devine.  "She is a focused, driven individual who will vie for a position in the middle of our line this season."


Kelly Bristow joins the Lady Bucs from Fort Worth, Texas, following a high school career that saw her earn three letters in volleyball as a middle blocker and an outside hitter.  She was a two-time all-district selection, and a member of Team USA in 2005.


"Kelly played for a very competitive club team in Texas," said Devine.  "We will look for her to see time in both the middle and on the outside this season."


Also joining the team this season is local product Krystina Ramey out of Kingsport, Tenn.  Krystina was a four-time letterwinner in both volleyball and softball at Sullivan South High School, and if healthy will be counted on to provide the Lady Bucs with defensive support.



Following this weekend's engagement in Charlotte, three more tournaments dot the pre-conference slate, including ETSU's own Lady Buc Volleyball Classic presented by Best Western of Johnson City, featuring Furman, Evansville and Winthrop in addition to the host Lady Bucs.  The Atlantic Sun schedule is once again a round robin format with each member institution playing each other one time prior to the conference tournament.  Last year's conference champion Florida Atlantic has departed the conference, but is replaced by second-year A-Sun member Kennesaw State, beginning its first season of competitive volleyball.  Belmont will once again host the conference tournament, scheduled for November 16-18 in Nashville, Tenn.


"This is a strong schedule with a good combination of home and away matches," said Devine.  "That said, we know that it doesn't really matter who we play.  Each competition makes us better and stronger on the court, which helps us prepare to win the conference tournament.  We know that we can't let our opportunities pass us by, and the only way to do that is play every match with confidence and focus."