CHARLESTON, S.C. - An experienced group returns as Charleston Southern volleyball looks ahead to the 2013 season under the direction of first year Head Coach Christine Mooberry.
Led by a quartet of seniors in Kayla Klinger, Laura Grace Swindler, Maggie Murphy and Erin LaVenice, the Buccaneers look to build off of last season's Big South tournament berth and make it back to the postseason.
"Our seniors bring a great amount of leadership, experience, and energy to the court," said Mooberry on the return of four strong seniors. "Kayla's experience shows the minute she hits the court, while LG and Maggie both bring a great amount of energy, determination and passion to our defensive game. They embody the idea of relentless pursuit that we want to see on our defense. Erin adds the height we need in the front row and moves very well across the net."
Charleston Southern was selected ninth in the annual Big South Preseason Coaches' Poll, as announced by the Big South Conference at the end of July and the Bucs look to battle through a tough conference and road slate this season, with the 30 match schedule featuring just nine home contests inside the friendly confines of the Buc Dome.
"We are on the road quite a bit but our goals will be the same: to bring our best no matter the circumstances," said Mooberry on the challenge of playing a majority of the matches on the road. "We should feel confident and experienced with road matches by the time we get to conference tournament and hopefully that will work in our favor. On top of that, road trips are opportunities to make team memories and bond, so we will use those trips as an opportunity to have fun together and continue to build our relationships and team dynamic."
The Buccaneers roster features four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and three freshman in the mix this season, with Klinger, junior libero Ashley Higginbothem and sophomore middle blocker Meredith Parrott leading the way on the squad among last season's top performers returning.
Klinger is joined by a talented group including sophomores Katrina Houston and Siraya Windsor, as well as freshmen Taylor Allman and Nikia Clark as the Bucs look to continue to provide a consistent and powerful attack on the outside.
Klinger leads all returning players with 235 kills this past season, hitting .250 from the floor and finished second on the team with 228 digs last year in providing a balanced floor leader for the Buccaneers heading into her senior season.
Houston and Windsor saw action in a combined 64 matches last year and earned 32 starts last season as true freshmen, combining for 283 kills, averaging over three kills a set. Houston provides a powerful left-hander to the Buccaneers rotation, while Windsor's athletic ability allows her to line up all over the court.
Allman, a Little River, S.C., native and North Myrtle Beach High School graduate, comes to CSU after being named the 3A South Carolina State Player of the Year after leading the Chiefs to the State Championship. She was a two-time team captain, earning Region VII Player of the Year honors and Toast of the Coast Player of the Year honors and will make an immediate impact in the CSU lineup.
Clark brings a 6-1 frame to the court and was a two-time All-State selection and four-time All-Conference selection at Peninsula Catholic in Newport News, Va. She also earned MaxPreps Athlete of the Week seven times during her high school career.
LaVenice and Parrott both return in the middle and look to help the Buccaneers offset the graduation of senior Wynter Davis.
LaVenice set the CSU single match record last season with 13 total blocks against USC Upstate last year and finished third on the team with 69 blocks in the middle last season. Parrott, a 2012 Big South All-Freshman team selection, led all Big South freshmen with a .305 hitting percentage in conference play and had seven matches with at least 10 kills to pace the Buccaneers offense. She also steadily improved during her play over the season, improving an all-around game which saw a high of nine digs at Gardner-Webb as well.
Stuksnes led the way for the Buccaneers last season, averaging 7.79 set assists per game with 935 assists on the season in starting all 34 matches. She had four matches with at least 50 assists on the season and looks to reprise her role in the lineup this season.
Close on her heels is Greer who has shown marked improvement during the offseason and was second on the team last season with 209 set assists, averaging nearly three assists a game in seeing action in 30 matches. Swindler will also be in the mix entering her final season and is one of the team's leading defensive players, as well as handling some of the setting duties.
Junior Ashley Higginbothem and senior Maggie Murphy reprise the defensive specialist role on the season for the Buccaneers with both players earning accolades from the CSU coaching staff for their work over the summer and the preseason, while freshman Kellyn Litten will also see time on the backline for the Bucs this season.
Higginbothem led the Bucs backline defense last year with 327 digs, averaging 3.56 digs per set on the year. This fall, she has shown marked improvement and continues to impress her teammates with her dedication and abilities. Murphy has also shown improvement heading into her final season and is a team leader both on and off the court. Her leadership will be put to the test early with the Buccaneers early schedule on the road.
Litten was a standout player at Huron High School in Huron, Ohio, where she recorded a 91.5 percent serving percentage with 23 aces, and added 200 set assists and 129 digs to her totals in her senior season.
One year after playing a schedule which saw Charleston Southern host two tournaments and featured 16 games at home, the Buccaneers return to the road for four away tournaments this season, while nine home matches highlight the Charleston Southern volleyball schedule.
Seven of the nine home contests will feature Big South Conference matchups, beginning with Campbell on October 4, while Senior Day comes against rival Coastal Carolina on November 8.
Charleston Southern opens up the schedule on the on August 30-31 at the Davidson Tournament, while the Bucs host Savannah State on September 8 in their home opener inside the Buc Dome.