Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball head coach Tony Graystone will kick off his second preseason as the Islanders leader and will welcome many new faces on Friday when players report.
Following his first season at the helm, Graystone went out and recruited heavily, bringing in 10 new players to go along with five returnees to make up his 15-player roster for the 2010 season. Record-setting outside hitter Emma Ridley, who was the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year, and libero Jessica Jennett make up the Islanders senior class while outside hitter Jessica Korda will be a junior in her third year with program. Opposite hitter Shannon Hullum and outside hitter Sheridan Paulus round out the class as sophomores.
The Islanders will have just four upper classmen as the two seniors and one returning junior will be joined by junior transfer Amanda Lowe from Navarro Junior College at the middle blocker position. The other nine newcomers will enter the season as true freshmen.
"We signed a lot of players that we felt could help us immediately," said Graystone. "To me, talent doesn't know an age.
"They are young but they are still talented and can play right away."
All three setters on the roster are true freshmen as Logen Bourque, Brittani Loux and Renee Ramirez will be running the offense for the Islanders this season. Isabella Arcidiacono will be the only new outside hitter that will be receiving sets from the trio as three of the five returning players are at the OH position.
"We lost a lot of players from last year's team but we returned the majority of our offense so we still have that intact," said Graystone. "When you have freshmen setters, you are going to get the ball to your outside hitters maybe a little more than a more experienced setter will.
"To have Emma and Korda coming back is really going to be a big deal."
Micah Nolan and Paige Hoffler will fill two of the three libero spots on the roster along with Jennett as the only returner at the position. Brooke Alverson and Jordan Flemmer will see action as middle blockers in addition to Lowe while Sarah Sanchez rounds out the roster at opposite hitter.
Graystone sees a lot of potential in his team this season. However, he does not view the inexperience as an excuse for his expectations. While at his previous coaching stop, Graystone was faced with similar situations several times and had newcomers flourish in his system early on.
"Obviously the team is going to revolve around Emma and we are going to lean on her to do pretty much everything," said Graystone. "We will find roles to maximize the newcomer's strengths but not put them in a position to do things they may not be ready for."
The 2010 version of the Islanders will feature a quicker team that will help even the playing field against the other teams in the Southland Conference.
"The biggest thing for us this year is that we wanted to get faster and we recruited a lot of players who were really quick, move well and get off the floor fast," said Graystone. "All of the players we signed will let us play a lot faster game which is a big deal.
"This last year we were not the fastest team on the court most of the time. Hopefully we have closed that gap and can compete in that regard and play at the tempo we need to play at."