Volleyball set to add eight freshman to team

Ilian Cervantes and Paris Prado

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The Sacramento State women’s volleyball team welcomes a record-breaking eight freshmen to the team this season.

In addition to the eight freshmen, a total of 10 new athletes make up the 16-player roster. Head coach Ruben Volta said one advantage of so many new faces on the team is the energy level apparent during practices.

To prepare the team for the season, Volta began training on Aug. 9, including several two-a-day practices before the start of the fall semester in order to get the women acclimated to the collegiate level.

“From a coaching standpoint, we spend a lot more time teaching and going over a lot of things that we teach here, that maybe they haven’t been taught before in terms of skill or position,” Volta said.

This will be Volta’s seventh year coaching at Sac State, where he has had success in his 14-year tenure with the volleyball program, apparent by the combined 283-168 overall record and a 149-73 mark in the Big Sky Conference.

Volta said he is looking forward to watching both the new and returning players compete and play well throughout the course of the season.

The pace of practice is an important theme to the staff and to his athletes this year. Volta said that to help the freshmen transition from high school to Division I volleyball, he has been focusing on the pace and speed of practices. 

Both true freshmen, Kennedy Kurtz and Shannon Boyle mentioned the pace of their practice has been an adjustment they have had to make at this higher level of competition. Both also started on Aug. 29 and 30 at the Charlotte invitational in North Carolina.

Boyle graduated from Ridgefield High School in Washington where she played volleyball, basketball and softball all four years, earning a total of 12 varsity letters. She was named first team all-region by The Columbian in all three sports.

“I’m playing a position I haven’t really played before, but I like the challenge,” Boyle said.

Her teammates have been welcoming and open to answer any questions she or other athletes have, with team bonding playing a big role, Boyle said.

“Having it all come together as a whole will be fun,” Boyle said.

Fellow freshman Kurtz comes from Ironwood Ridge High School in Oro Valley, Ariz. where she played volleyball for four years. In her senior year, she helped lead her squad in a 36-9 overall record, receiving the title of Southern Arizona Player of the Year.

Although Kurtz has a strong record, she describes the transition from high school to Division I volleyball as intense.  

“It’s a quicker pace. The level is 100 times harder,” Kurtz said. “There’s a lot of pressure just trying to make sure I contribute to my team. As a true freshman, I need to step up and play like a sophomore or junior on the court.”

Volta said he has noticed returners stepping up and setting an example for the new players on the speed and pace of their practices.

Third year veteran and team captain Sloan Lovett said her game plan for the young team this season is to be a good leader and answer any questions.

“I have more of a responsibility to show them the way things go and how our team culture [works],” Lovett said. “I don’t see them as freshman at all, I see us as just a team.”  

The team has seen Lovett improve her skills from her freshman season to sophomore 2013 season by averaging 2.00 kills more per set and upping her hitting percentage by 169 percentage points. She ranked fifth among Big Sky Conference leaders for kills per set and seventh in points per set.

When it comes to the freshmen and helping them transition to Division I volleyball, Lovett said doubleday practices aid the transition by preparing athletes mentally and physically.

“Their bodies have to get used to it and their minds have to get used to it,” Lovett said.

Hornet volleyball finished the tournament in North Carolina with a 2-2 record this weekend and will play host for a two-day invitational this week competing against Fresno State at 7 p.m. Friday and continuing the next day against Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara.