By Jocelyn VerVelde, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech volleyball team will host a Purple and Gold Scrimmage on Saturday. With six new faces, the scrimmage provides a great opportunity for fans to become familiar with the 2014 squad.
The Purple and Gold Scrimmage is set to begin at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, and like all home games throughout the season, admission is free.
The 2014 squad represents two different countries (USA and Turkey), and eight states in Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, and Idaho. Fans are encouraged to come out on Saturday to get their first glimpse at the 2014 Golden Eagles.
To prepare the fans that will be in attendance on Saturday, and throughout the season, we have provided a roster breakdown by position with an inside look from head coach Dave Zelenock.
Setters: There are currently two "labeled" setters on the TTU roster, sophomore Sharon Anderson and freshman Sam Cash. Anderson played in 31 sets, and was averaging 9.52 assists per set prior to missing the second half of last season with an injury. Cash comes in as a highly-touted recruit, having earned a place on the Top-150 high school seniors list last year. Unfortunately, fan's may not get to see Sam this weekend as she just had her gall bladder removed, but should be ready by conference play at the latest. However, the Golden Eagles have a hidden setter on the roster. Freshman K'Vonna Johnson will serve as a utility player, and was an all-state setter at her high school in Texas. Johnson was recruited at a middle blocker, has been training as an outside during preseason, but with Cash out for a few weeks, Johnson has had to step in as setter as well.
Coach's Insight: "With Sam out for a little while longer, Sharon is our only true setter. K'Vonna has been filling in and doing a great job and really picked things up fast. Most likely whichever team has Sharon will resemble our offense a bit more than K'Vonna's side, but K'Vonna has a will to win that is very impressive, so she will most likely pull something out and make it a good fight."
Middles/Opposites: These two positions have proved to be interchangeable for Coach Zelenock's offense, and most of the middle blockers dual train to be able to play both positions. With two returners in Cody Dodd and Madison Keyes, the experience level in this group is very high. They also add sophomore junior college transfer Alyssa Povey and freshman Jordan Wachowiak , but fans also may see Johnson play these positions, as well. Dodd split time at both opposite and middle in 2013, and looks to have the opposite position locked down for this season.
Coach's Insight: "Our middles are an interesting bunch. We have a lot of size, some good speed and varying abilities to score. Some of our kids are scoring off one-foot (the slide-style attack) big time, and others are getting it done off two feet. We've had some little injuries with them, but by Saturday they should all be able to go. Cody Dodd picked up this fall where she was at in spring and was very impressive out of the gate but had a little set back and we hope to move past that as she comes back. Keyes is as fast as ever and came in very determined. Alyssa improved so much last spring and is ready to make her debut in the OVC. Jordan is adjusting to the speed/power of the college game well and continues to be a big block who can take over defensively. As she gets stronger her offense will be very helpful, she has a huge reach and can really hit the ball but isn't used to hitting as much as our middles do. She wasn't used as much in high school and club as we use our middles here."
"As of today Cody would be our starting opposite, but any of our middles have the capability. She's hitting every set we have from pin to pin and doing it very high on the pin and swinging hard. If she continues to work like she has and play like she is, I think she will surprise a lot of coaches in the OVC this year."
Outsides: The outside hitter position looks to be the most "up-in-the-air" heading into the regular season. The Golden Eagles return senior Ellen Conti and sophomore Irem Sile, and add freshmen Kellie Williams and K'Vonna Johnson. Conti played in 87 sets and 26 matches, registering 2.48 kills per set last season, but is in the process of rehabilitating her shoulder from a spring injury. Sile is coming off of a storng spring, but saw limited action in her freshman season playing in just 20 sets. Williams and Johnson both will be looking to make an immediate impact as freshmen.
Coach's Insight: "Outsides are our biggest focus right now. We had some rough injuries right at the end of spring that really have hurt us because those players are just now starting to be able to play so they lost the summer to improve. So we have two returners (Conti and Sile) and two freshmen (Williams and Johnson) out there all competing for time. The returners have the benefit of experience and more training but are still shaking the rust off. The freshmen are so athletic, they do some special things, but then also they are freshman and sometimes do some crazy things. Right now that's the position that's most up in the air, hopefully we get some answers on Saturday."
Defensive Specialist/Libero: The defensive specialist role returns as the most experienced role on the team. With two 1,000-plus diggers in seniors Courtney Smith and Allison May, the Golden Eagles should be sound. However, TTU may will need to wait on May, as she is still recovering from ACL surgery from this spring. Smith, however, spent every match last season in the libero jersey and has stepped up as the vocal leader of the backcourt and looks to lead sophomore Kennedy Wade and freshman Allison Morrett.
Coach's Insight: "Courtney Smith is the leader of this group and came into camp playing the best I've seen her. She's passing and digging at such a high level that players and coaches just avoid hitting or serving anywhere near her. Kennedy Wade has really upped her game as well from last fall and is doing a great job being athletic and technical at the same time. Allison Morrett came in and turned some heads right away. She's got such a knack for defense and always seems to find a way to get the ball up. As she keeps adjusting to the college game I expect her to continue to improve and be a huge asset for us. Allison May still isn't recovered fully from her ACL surgery, but we know at some point we will get her back and the team is eagerly awaiting that day.
Setters: The player assigned to set the ball into the air for the purpose of placing the ball in position for the attack; comparable to a quarterback in football.
-Tech Setters: Sharon Anderson, Sam Cash, K'Vonna Johnson
Middle Blockers: Normally a team will display all three of their front court players in preparation to block the opponent's attack, even though only one or two players may block. The middle is that blocker who is deployed between the other two blockers as the team is ready to block. Offensively, they have a tendency to run multiple styles of attack, mainly at a quicker tempo, both off one foot and two. In some offenses, opposites and middles can be interchangeable.
-Tech Middle Blockers: Madison Keyes, Alyssa Povey, Jordan Wachowiak, Cody Dodd, K'Vonna Johnson
Opposites: Primarily used to attack from the right sight of the court. They are opposite the setter, denoted by "opposite"-hitter. This position is versatile on the court. This players position in the rotational order allows for this player to be a primary passer, passing from the center of the court in every rotation, primary attacker, or the ability to be hidden on the court. Also has to ability to play at the speed of a middle blocker.
Tech Opposites: Cody Dodd, Madison Keyes, Alyssa Povey, Jordan Wachowiak
Outside Hitter: Primarily used as a left-side attacker and primary passers in serve receive, conventional systems of play use two outside-hitters OH1 follows the setter while OH2 follows the opposite-hitter.
-Tech Outside Hitters: Ellen Conti, Irem Sile, Kellie Williams, K'Vonna Johnson
Libero: An Italian word meaning "free," the libero is a defensive player designated by a contrasting colored jersey who can come on and off the court for any back-row player. Their main responsibilities include receiving serve and playing defense. Rules limit them from overhead setting in front of the 10-foot line and attacking a ball above the plane of the net.
-Tech Liberos: Courtney Smith, Allison May, Kennedy Wade, Allison Morrett
Defensive Specialist: Similar to the libero but with much fewer restrictions, a defensive specialist is used to receive serve or strictly defend. Utilized for their above average ball control, they must follow normal substitution rules.
-Tech Defensive Specialists: Allison May, Kennedy Wade, Allison Morrett, Courtney Smith