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2005 Volleyball Outlook

2005 Volleyball Outlook

Aug. 22, 2005

Clemson volleyball reached the 20-win plateau in 2004 for the first time in six years, and the Tigers were one of just three ACC teams to reach the 20-win mark. Along the way, Clemson upset top-seeded Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tourney. The Yellow Jackets were previously unbeaten in 16 regular-season conference matches. This season, Clemson will look to build on its performance, as the addition of Boston College gives the conference 12 teams.

To make the next step, Clemson must do so without the services of decorated 2004 seniors Lori Ashton and Leslie Finn. The duo ended their careers atop multiple categories in the Tiger recordbook. Head Coach Jolene Hoover, in her 13th season at Clemson, believes the experience of eight returning letterwinners and a different team makeup will pay dividends in 2005.

“Our team looks a little different, and that happens when you graduate players who have been on the court four years,” Hoover said. “This year, we will be very balanced in terms of our offense, which hasn’t always been the case in the past few years.”

The ACC will not hold a season-ending volleyball tourney for the first time since 1979, meaning each school will play a double, round-robin format in league play. The Tigers will play 22 ACC matches, compared to just eight out of conference. Clemson will travel to Auburn, AL to participate in the Mizuno/Auburn Challenge along with Alabama A&M, Auburn, and Furman. The Tigers will also play non-conference matches against Georgia and South Carolina.

“With the scheduling changes for 2005, it will take more focus each weekend because each match will be so important in the conference standings,” Hoover said. “I really believe that winning at home will be more crucial than ever before. It is going to be new for all of us in the league.”

The Tigers return two players in the middle, Meghan Steiner and Laura Boozer, and have added freshmen Amber Campbell and Danielle Hepburn. The group has just 58 games of college experience, all by Steiner, a sophomore from Crystal Lake, IL.

Steiner is the leading returning hitter on the team, as she hit .254 as a freshman. She recorded 10 kills and hit .333 in an early upset of Northern Iowa. Her best all-around effort came at home against Virginia. She had eight kills and hit .333 with two block assists in a win over the Cavaliers.

Boozer, whose brother Thomas was a relief pitcher for the Tiger baseball team from 1999-02 and father played football at Clemson in the early 1970s, sat out the 2004 season as a red-shirt. At 6’2″, she possesses good size for the middle position.

A native of Charleston, SC, Campbell was a three-sport star in high school and is regarded as one of the top athletes on the team. Campbell hit .325 with an average of 2.5 blocks per game as a senior at West Ashley High School.

Hepburn is a native of Miami, FL, and was rated the #51 prospect nationally by PrepVolleyball.com in the fall of 2004. She also lettered in three sports during high school, including once in track & field and four times in basketball. Hepburn was also the 2003-04 Miami Herald Player-of-the-Year.

One of Clemson’s priorities for 2005 will be replacing the school’s single-season and career kills leader (Finn). Returning on the outside after a spectacular freshman season will be Sunrise, FL native Brittany Ross. She was named to the ACC’s All-Freshman team in 2004 after posting 472 kills, a Clemson rookie record. She had 25 kills and hit a season-high .489 in the Tigers’ upset win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament.

The leading candidate to fill the void left by Finn is freshman Jeannette Abbott, a highly-regarded prospect from Downers Grove, IL. The #94 national prospect by PrepVolleyball.com last fall, Abbott was the Chicago Tribune Player-of-the-Year and a high school All-American. She gives the Tigers a potentially dangerous duo on the outside.

Clemson’s top-two, right-side hitters also happen to be the captains in 2005. Leslie Mansfield and Meghan Stanton are team leaders who are expected to make major contributions this season.

Stanton, the team’s only senior, has played in 188 career games. She has 111 kills and 329 digs in her three-year stint with the Tigers. In 2004, she appeared in 36 games, and totaled 36 kills and 14 service aces. The Kildeer, IL native also has the ability to play outside.

Mansfield, a sophomore from Saint Charles, IL, returns after a stellar freshman season. She was Clemson’s most versatile performer during the 2004 campaign, as she totaled 95 kills, 69 assists, 44 service aces, 271 digs, and 62 total blocks. She set a freshman record with eight aces in just her fourth collegiate match against The Citadel.

Sophomore Courtney Lawrence returns at the setter position. She played in 119 games and ranked first on the team with 864 assists. That equates to an average of 7.26 assists per game, a figure most likely to increase this season.

Dawn Robertson also returns at the setter position. She totaled 247 assists as a freshman in 2003 before moving to the backcourt in 2004. She also could play a role in the backcourt in 2005. She appeared in 13 games in 2004. Robertson along with Lawrence are natives of California.

The Tigers return their top backcourt performers from the 2004 season, while adding a trio of newcomers who will have a chance to contribute. Returning at the libero position is Anna Vallinch, a transfer from Nebraska-Kearney who will be in her second season with the program. The junior from Papillion, NE set the single-season school record for digs (620) in her first year at Clemson. Her average of 5.04 digs per game also is a school record. Vallinch established a Jervey Gym record with 35 digs in a five-game thriller versus North Carolina.

Joining Vallinch in the backcourt will be defensive specialist Sue Eckman, a sophomore from Saint Charles, IL. She posted 215 digs in her first year with the program, with a season-high 16 versus North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. Eckman also has one of the top serves on the team, as she had 37 aces as a freshman in 2004.

A trio of newcomers will have a chance to be in the mix at defensive specialist. Katie Bridges, a 5’9″ native of nearby Pickens, SC, was the state’s AAA Player-of-the-Year as a senior in 2004. Emilie Crigler comes to Clemson after lettering in three sports at East Henderson High in Flat Rock, NC. Also joining the team this season is sophomore Mary Kate Peer, who rowed at Clemson during the 2004-05 season with the second novice 8+ crew.

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