Arkansas Tech head volleyball coach Kristy Bayer welcomed 16 student-athletes to campus on Monday, Aug. 13, for the first day of 2012 preseason practice.
The Golden Suns return nine letter winners from a team that finished 35-4 overall, won the Great American Conference regular season title, captured the GAC Tournament crown and reached the NCAA Division II Tournament in 2011.
It was just the second NCAA Tournament appearance in Arkansas Tech volleyball history and the first national tournament berth for the Golden Suns volleyball program since 2000.
“We have the same goals this season that we had last season,” said Bayer. “We’ve kept those same three goals for the past couple of seasons. We want to win the regular season conference championship, win the conference tournament and make the NCAA Division II Tournament. We were fortunate enough to accomplish all three of those last season, and those will remain our goals heading into the 2012 season.”
Among the returnees for the Golden Suns are 2011 All-GAC first team selections Sara Motsinger and Amber Cerrillos as well as 2011 All-GAC honorable mention pick Brittany Ryan.
Motsinger, a junior middle blocker from Normal, Ill., ranked second in the GAC in hitting percentage (.305) and ninth in the league in kills (2.99 per set) last season.
Cerrillos is a junior setter from Michigan City, Ind. She was the GAC leader in both assists (10.83 per set) and service aces (0.45 per set) in 2011.
Ryan, a senior middle blocker, dominated the blocking category in the GAC last season. The Mena product averaged 1.15 blocks per set during her junior campaign. Her 150 total blocks were 34 more than any other player in the GAC last season.
Other returning players include seniors Carly Florian of Wilmington, Ill., and Lindsey Layes of Fort Smith; and sophomores Taylor Brown of Willow Park, Texas, Stephanie Channell of Prosper, Texas, Sierra Nighswonger of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Kaitlyn White of Hideaway, Texas.
Bayer is keeping an open mind as her team begins practice for the 2012 season.
“This is the first year that I don’t have a predetermined set of strengths of weaknesses in terms of our skill set going into preseason,” said Bayer. “Our first practice on Monday was a scrimmage day, and from there as a coaching staff we will be able to assess where we are. We have a solid core of nine returning players, but we also have seven newcomers that will play a role in our program this year so we need to evaluate before we can move forward.”
Those seven newcomers are Rachel Hampton of Flower Mound, Texas, Heidi Hausheer of Austin, Texas, Katie Huff of Springdale, Kaci Jackson of Hallsville, Texas, Morgan McKellar of Katy, Texas, Courtney Sanders of Arlington, Texas, and Colleen Wooten of Omaha, Neb.
“I am confident that our newcomers will be able to adjust quickly,” said Bayer. “All seven of them played club volleyball at a high level, so they are used to seeing good competition. I believe it will be an easy transition for them.”
The Golden Suns will make their 2012 volleyball season debut on Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the Christian Brothers University Invitational in Memphis, Tenn.
Arkansas Tech will open the home portion of its volleyball schedule by hosting the Hampton Inn Spikefest Sept. 7-8 at Tucker Coliseum.
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