CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern is four days from first serve as the Buccaneers volleyball team continues preparations for the 2016 season under the leadership of head coach Christy Mooberry. The Bucs open the season this weekend at the Catamount Volleyball Classic hosted by Western Carolina University on August 26-27.
The Bucs enter their fourth season under the helm of Mooberry and will look to build off their success in the 2015 season that saw CSU advance into postseason play for the first time since 2012.
CSU returns seven players from last season's team including seniors Taylor Allman, Connor Malone and Siraya Windsor, junior Kylie Klein, and sophomores Addison Kaderli, Madison Martin and Hannah Western.
"The mentality and growth of our returners, especially the freshmen who are now sophomores will be a real positive impact on the court," Mooberry commented. "I see a stronger consistency and tougher mentality and more confidence out of them already this year."
The Buccaneers will be on the road throughout the first month of the season at tournaments hosted by Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, CofC and The Citadel. CSU will host Big South matches against Campbell, Presbyterian, Radford, Liberty, UNC Asheville, High Point, Winthrop and Gardner-Webb.
"We were intentional with our road play this year," Mooberry said. "We're glad to stay relatively close with our tournament travel schedule and have the team feeling rested and good moving into conference play."
Klein and freshmen Caitlyn Michalski and Logan Windsor will anchor the center of CSU's defensive efforts at the net as the trio prepares for play to start on Friday afternoon against Tennessee Tech.
Klein returns after a strong 2015 season that saw the Highlands Ranch, Colo. Native finish third in the Big South Conference individual rankings with 1.02 blocks per game. Klein finished the season with 125 blocks on the year and cracked into the top 25 all-time in the category for the Bucs in just two seasons.
Michalski joins the Bucs from Greensboro, N.C. and Wesleyan Christian Academy where she was a three-time All-Conference selection, as well as Conference Player of the Year and All-State recognition. Windsor, sister to CSU redshirt senior Siraya Windsor, was the S.C. Region 5 Player of the Year in 2015, earning All-State and All-Star honors at White Knoll High School. Windsor is also expected to see time on the outside.
"Kylie gives us experience and confidence in the middle," said Mooberry. "Caitlyn is fast, athletic and jumps well; she's grown so much even in the last two weeks over preseason. Logan is another option for us as well and with over a 30" vertical, her athleticism is obvious, she is a player we are training both in the middle and on the pin.""
Outside Hitters/Right Side Hitters
Kaderli, Malone, and Western return to lead a young, deep group on the outside for the Buccaneers in the 2016 season. Freshmen Logan Windsor, Brooke Monssen and Macey LaPorte are all expected to challenge for playing time in the rotation right away.
Kaderli looks to build off a Big South All-Freshman campaign that placed the Austin, Texas native among the conference leaders in kills at 2.52 per set. She also displayed her overall court awareness in earning Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors in the 2015 season following a 25 dig contest against Winthrop on October 31.
Malone returns to provide a steady presence on the outside for the Bucs and finished the 2015 season fifth on the team in kills and third in total blocks. Western made strides throughout the spring season and is expected to contribute in the lineup this season to help offset the loss of graduated senior Katrina Houston.
Monssen was a three-time Coastal 3A All-Conference selection at Richlands High School in Jacksonville, N.C., and captured back-to-back Conference Player of the Year honors in 2014 and 2015. LaPorte was a two-time All-State selection at local Cathedral Academy and was named the Regional Player of the Year in both 2014 and 2015.
"Our outside and right side options are deeper than they have been in past years," Mooberry said. "Addy and Hannah give us experience on the pins as six rotation players. All of these pins provide significant blocks that could be beneficial on the right side or outside. Logan and Brooke are also six rotation options with the potential to be strong offensive options out of the back row."
A trio of freshmen will look to replace graduated senior Cassidy Greer on the court this season. Naiomi Rivera, Rachel Smith and Sydney Schwiebert are all expected to see playing time in the 2016 season in the setter role for the Buccaneers.
Rivera joined the Bucs by way of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico and the Academia Discipulos de Cristo, Bayamon PR. She shined during her senior season in leading the team to five high school invitational tournament championships and was selected MVP twice during the stretch. Smith earned All-District and All-Ohio Honorable Mention IV honors at Villa Angela St. Joseph High School in Euclid, Ohio. Schwiebert joins the Bucs from Geneva, Ill. and Geneva High School where she was a two-time team captain. She also serves as a setter for the Sports Performance Volleyball Club.
"We have three setters competing for the position this year," Mooberry said. "Each brings something a little bit different than the other. It's great to have (Assistant Coach) Jordan (Fish) who was a stand-out setter working with them; I have confidence in her ability to train them to be what we need."
Martin and Allman return to reprise their roles on the backline of the CSU defensive following the departure of graduated senior Ashley Higginbothem. The Bucs duo will be joined by Smith, LaPorte and junior Taylor Marin.
Martin made strides toward the end of her freshman season and finished the year with double-digit digs in eight of CSU's final nine matches. Allman is two seasons removed from serving as CSU's libero where she set the Bucs' single match record of 36 digs on September 26, 2014 against Presbyterian.
Smith and LaPorte are expected to play utility roles for the volleyball program this season, while Marin returns to the Bucs after transferring in from UNLV this fall. Marin was a freshman at CSU in 2014 and averaged 1.58 digs per set over her first season with the Bucs.
"This position is so competitive right now," Mooberry commented. "We have high expectations for our defense and are continually pushing to be an impeccable serve receive team. We want to be that team that drives everyone nuts because nothing hits the floor."