KSU’s volleyball team is set to begin what will be one of the most exciting seasons in the program’s history. Led by new head coach Keith Schunzel, the Owls have high expectations for 2013 after finishing last season with a losing record.
After naming Schunzel head of the team roughly three months following the season’s conclusion, a condensed offseason was still proven to be productive. “We had a lot to do in a real short amount of time,” said Schunzel. “From developing relationships to getting the team pointed in the right direction and on board with the new staff’s vision, it was a really successful offseason.”
Under the new staff, the team was challenged to create a new chemistry. “The offseason went really good,” junior Keyaira Stevenson said. “We’re trying to have a new attitude for the new season. We have new chemistry and a new flow with everybody, so we’re just trying to have outlook on what the season is going to be and it’s kind of been brought into our preseason this year.”
The players have showed strong faith in the programs new hiring’s. Assistant coaches Kim Fletcher and Peter Chang will also begin their first seasons with KSU. “Everyone believes in what they are saying,” senior Sara Metroka said. “They have come in and made a huge impact on our culture. We’re going to take this program to do good things.”
Senior Emily Bean added, “They bring such a positive energy, all of them do. They’re really teaching us how to take advantage of our time here and take advantage of the resources we have here. They’re resumes are incredible, they come from great programs.” Bean, who came down with an injury on the second day of preseason, will miss the remainder of the preseason but hopes to be back when conference play begins.
With Schunzel’s resume including stints at Purdue, Indiana and Kentucky, he expressed his excitement since arriving at KSU stating, “It’s been awesome. Everything that I saw during the interview process and the people that I talked to is exactly what it has been and more. It’s a great athletic department, it’s a great school, and we feel really comfortable.”
Staying strong throughout the course of the season will be the main objective this year. The Owls started out their 2012 campaign undefeated through four games and then finished the season on a seven game losing streak. “Last season we started off strong then we kind of drifted off,” said Stevenson.
“Our goal this year is to make it to the conference tournament, especially because we are hosting it, and win,” said Metroka. Consistency will have to be the team’s focus in 2013 to return the program to its winning ways.
Reaching the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament would deliver a sense of redemption to the returning players but Schunzel assures his team is taking the season one game at a time. “We have not talked specifically about win-loss,” said Schunzel. “We have not talked about winning tournaments. We want to get better and see where we are at by the end of the year. Hopefully by conference tournament time we are peaking.”
However, the player’s know what they want to accomplish. “Definitely finishing top two going into the conference I think would be really beneficial,” said Bean. “It gives us a bye for conference play, and it would be nice to be top two coming into our own home conference tournament.” Out for revenge, the returning players are looking for an A-Sun Conference championship.
Along with hosting the A-Sun tournament, the KSU volleyball squad will travel to two SEC schools this season when they take on Ole Miss in a tournament in Oxford and then conclude their season in Athens against Georgia. As always the Owls will face a tough A-Sun conference. “We always look for ETSU,” Bean said. “We have built a rivalry with ETSU over the past few years.”
KSU will be featured on four ESPN3 games, three of which will be broadcasted from the Convocation Center. “It’s fantastic to get on ESPN3,” said Schunzel. “That’s going to expand in future years hopefully and that’s great visibility for recruits, for our program and for kids who are not from Georgia. We are excited about the schedule.”
The elevated visibility for KSU is something that continues to expand the athletic department. “I think the potential with all of the sports teams is starting to be realized, which is really neat,” Schunzel explained. “Obviously all of the additions and all of the things going on make KSU unique. There is not a ton of tradition; there is not 100 years to go back on with anything. So a lot of it you can build from scratch and we can literally see this thing develop.”
Leadership for the Owls will be provided by the team’s four seniors, Emily Bean, Sara Metroka, Camille Pedraza and Aneisha Christie. “All four of them have been great so far,” said Schunzel. “They will provide a bulk of the voice and the experience and then we have a handful of underclassmen that I think are ready to step up and get more of a leadership role.”
KSU’s campaign begins on Aug. 30 when they take on Eastern Kentucky in their season opening tournament in Radford, VA.