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Season of high expectations, hope for volleyball team

by Conor O'Neill,
  • File Photo.

Upon being asked what games she is most looking forward to this fall, junior outside hitter Caroline Lemke gave quite a list before pausing.

She said matches against Samford University, College of Charleston, Furman University and UNC Greensboro will be key games, along with every other Southern Conference match.

"I would say, of all the years I've been here, this is the year I feel most confident that we can win at least the Northern Division and hopefully the Southern Conference," Lemke said.

After last season's school-best finish of 23-8 overall and 9-7 in the conference, the team is aiming higher this year.

"Our team goals are to win our conference in the North Division, make it to the SoCon Tournament and win there," senior outside hitter Lauren Copenhagen said.

In order to accomplish those goals, the Phoenix will have to defeat Samford and Appalachian State University, the two teams from the North Division that finished ahead of the Phoenix last year.

Rival UNCG also finished with a 9-7 SoCon record and will be another tough test this season.

"No matter how good or bad each team is, that's always a good game because of the rivalry," Lemke said of the matches against the Spartans.

Head coach Mary Tendler, entering her eighth season at the helm for the Phoenix, said she believes last season's success will give the Phoenix more motivation to surpass the 2009 effort this year.

"The success we had last year with 23 wins has made us hungrier this year," Tendler said. "I think we'll have a better team this year and we'll put a better product on the floor."

In each of the last three seasons, the Phoenix has increased its win total and will look to do so again this year.

In order to accomplish these goals, according to Copenhagen, the team must put in the necessary work to achieve them.

"We need to work on all skills and make sure everyone is doing their part to make the team more successful," Copenhagen said. "(We have to) push ourselves on the court, off the court and in the weight room."

Tendler mentioned one specific change the Phoenix will have to make in order to accomplish its goals this year.

"One thing we can improve on is winning close matches and finishing out those things," Tendler said. "Last year we played a lot of five-set matches, and we lost a lot of those."

In order to improve winning close matches, Tendler said the team needs an identity.

"I think it was more of us being a very balanced team, and sometimes when you have a balanced team, you don't know who to go to in the clutch," Tendler said.

But that is something to figure out during the season. Now, the team just can't wait until it has an opponent other than teammates for scrimmages.

"(We're) very excited to start playing again and to get someone else on the other side of the net," Lemke said.