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Announce Exclusive: Old faces meet new challenges Exclusive: Old faces meet new challenges

Aug. 25, 2011

Big Orange Bash Preview 

CLEMSON—The dawning of a new season is always a new and exciting experience for longtime Clemson volleyball coach Jolene Hoover. Suffice it to say that she could probably get used to feeling this confident more often.

After dealing with the combination of youth and injury over the past few seasons, Hoover is finally ready for a veteran group to emerge as a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference race this season.

At first glance, it may not seem conventional to label this team a “veteran” one because of the presence of only one senior, Cansu Ozdemir—who, coincidentally, is back after being the lone senior on last year’s squad due to a previous medical redshirt. But a strong core of juniors, led by preseason All-ACC selection Sandra Adeleye, is poised to pick up that mantle of leadership and carry it to new heights.

Further evidence that this year could be a good one for the Clemson volleyball program can be found in the Jervey Athletic Center weight room, where much of the team spent a great deal of time during the summer months. At the expense of family time and vacations, the players sacrificed to ensure that the first day of practice went off without a hitch. Their dedication was not lost on the head coach.

“The biggest factor was that they were in fantastic shape,” Hoover said of the ease with which preseason camp was conducted. “Most of them stayed over the summer and worked with our strength coach, Dennis Love. They were in such great shape that it seemed like we got through things much quicker.”

In her 19th season at the helm of the Tiger program, Hoover still tries to treat each individual season as a new experience. With changes to the game have come changes in her own approach and philosophy toward the game. This flexibility, she hopes, will allow her to maximize the potential of this star-studded group.

“The athletes seem like they are getting bigger, faster, and stronger,” Hoover said. “I’m almost six feet tall, and I’m lucky I played when I did because it is getting increasingly more physical. They are starting to play younger. There are all of these clubs, so they are playing ten or 11 months out of the year. They are just at a better point by the time they get to college than they used to be.”

Earlier this week, the Tigers were picked to finish seventh in the 12-team ACC after finishing ninth in a crowded middle pack of teams last season. Returning virtually everyone, along with adding a trio of talented freshmen, would seem to warrant a more significant jump.

But Hoover, as even-tempered as they come, has chosen not to dwell on predictions or expectations. Her sole focus is to see her team improve, from the opening serve of the Big Orange Bash this weekend until the NCAA Tournament in a few months.

“There are a lot of good teams in front of us,” Hoover said. “I think we’re definitely going to finish higher than (seventh). I like our chances, I like our group. I think we could win the title, but a lot of that is going to depend on how we stay healthy and a little luck along the way.”