The first day of practice for the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball team started bright and early with a 7:30 a.m. Monday morning run before coming back to campus to begin the first session of the day.

For the first few days, the Islanders will focus on fundamentals as they try to incorporate nine freshmen and one transfer into head coach Tony Graystone's playing system. There are just five returners from last season's team that has been made over to compete with the top teams in the Southland Conference.

"It's actually kind of a boring workout the first couple of days, getting everybody learning the same system," said Graystone. "There are enough good things to know that we have the right group in here but we have a lot of work to do."

The biggest difference on the court is how fast the 2010 team is. Graystone focused on speed as a key component of the last recruiting class. It will take time but he believes that his team is on the right path to becoming a championship contender.

"The first thing you notice is just how much faster we are and how much better the athletes in the gym are," said Graystone. "We have done a nice job of improving the overall quality of the team, now we have to get better play out of them.

"It's one day so we have plenty of time, everyday they will get better and better."

One of the biggest positives for Graystone is the fact that he has his top two hitters back from last year in Emma Ridley and Jessica Korda. Ridley led the conference in kills with 464 and was named Southland Newcomer of the Year while Korda added 309 on the season.

"It's big to have a couple of outside hitters that can put the ball away," said Graystone. "They know we are going to get them the ball a lot but we also have placed better players around them and that will make their lives a whole lot easier.

"I think once we get in there, find that balance and watch the new players start creating opportunities for themselves, it is going to make the returnees look a lot better."

The Islanders, who practiced a second time at 5 p.m. on Monday afternoon, will practice at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Dugan Wellness Center.