Lady Patriot volleyball set to break new records

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Photo by: Austin Kemmerlin

Jessica Amador (left) and Alexzandra Reed (right), seen passing in practice above, will play pivotal roles in the Patriot's success this season.

Jessica Imbimbo, Editor-in-Chief

The Francis Marion University (FMU) women’s volleyball team begins their preseason practices, hoping to make a run at a record-breaking season for the second consecutive year.

The Lady Patriots add six newcomers this fall, after losing four seniors, all of which held a starting position on the court.  The team graduated setter and MVP Kailey Smith, middle blocker Megan Mooney, right-side hitter Jessica Imbimbo and defensive specialist Paige Perreault.  Smith and Imbimbo earned second team all-conference honors last year, while Mooney lead the team in total blocks with 96. Head coach Paul MacDonald believes the team will face adversities after losing four starters.

“The greatest challenge we have as a team, after graduating so many key players, is specifically determining which players will be able to fill those vacated roles,” MacDonald said.

“I believe that every team from year to year is different, and has an identity all its own.   Any time you graduate a solid class of players your identity as a team on and off the court is bound to evolve.”

Of the six new additions to the squad, two are freshman, while the remaining four are transfers from others schools. One of the transfer players include junior libero Jessica Amador, a product of Pasco-Hernando State College and a two-time second team All-American. Another notable transfer is junior middle blocker Shelby Schindler, who during her time at Iowa Central Community College set team records in three different categories: blocks per set, total blocks in a season and hitting percentage.  MacDonald is excited to see what the new group can bring to the table.

“We certainly hope that as soon as possible, they no longer feel or act like newcomers and that they can make a contribution on the court and elevate our team’s level of play,” MacDonald said.

The returning starters have high expectations as well.  Junior outside hitter Alexzandra Reed comes off of a stellar sophomore season, totaling 309 kills for the year.  Senior middle blocker Shelby Jones will also play a major role on the court after totaling the second most blocks on the team last year with 71.  Sophomores Caroline Boone and Carlie Smith hope to insert themselves within the starting six, after impressive performances as reserve players last season.

Last season, the Lady Patriot squad finished third in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) regular season standings with a record of 21-9; the team’s first 20-win season since 2008. MacDonald hopes to not only match last year’s results but surpass it.

“We hope to earn a bid to the NCAA National Tournament, and be strong enough as a team late in the season to make a run at the PBC title,” MacDonald said.  “We will have a better idea of our capabilities to meet these goals as we work through our current preseason training schedule and into early September.”

The FMU volleyball team initiates their season on September 5 as they host the FMU Invitational tournament.  The Lady Patriots will face off against Mount Olive in their home opener at 4 p.m. and Shorter University at 8 p.m.