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Announce Exclusive: Volleyball looks to show age this season Exclusive: Volleyball looks to show age this season

CLEMSON— Few words have been uttered more often over the past two or three seasons by Clemson volleyball coach Jolene Hoover than the words “young” or “youth.”

Now, with the transition of youth to experience, there is a different mantra coming out of preseason camp: “Finish.”“There are so many veterans that hopefully, we can take another jump,” Hoover said. “They’ve grown up so much and they know the game so much better. Any teacher or coach wants to see them get it. It’s exciting to see.”With four seniors and two juniors expected to be in the starting lineup entering preseason practice, the Tigers will have familiarity and experience on their side in 2012. Given the presence of so many recognizable names and the amount of playing time the key contributors have already received, expectations are relatively high.However, Hoover has been through this quite a few times before. She understands the tendency for student-athletes to press when the burden of those expectations begins to grow. So she is treating this season much like any other—but for the first time in a while, she has an inner circle of players that know exactly how to accomplish the task in front of them.“There’s a sense of urgency, but there’s no panic,” Hoover said. “They’re much more confident, much more sure of themselves. I think they know themselves better. A lot of these players have been playing with each other on the court for three or four years now.”Part of the reason for optimism is rooted in the willingness of the team’s members to hang around through the summer months to work out together. It is an outgrowth of the relationship the upperclassmen have built with one another over the years and are now passing on to their young teammates.“When you’re here in this environment with your teammates, the intensity level is higher and you train harder,” Hoover said. “It’s very different being at home by yourself where nobody’s pushing you as much.”By no means is Clemson a finished product. Hoover has a number of things her team needs to improve in order to reach its ultimate goals when the season ends. A big part of bridging the gap will come with maturity, and the Tiger head coach is confident her team will taste success at a high rate if it can simply find a way to mentally prevail in difficult circumstances, particularly when the game is on the line.“We need to work on being tough at the end of matches and closing things out,” she said. “They can’t think about (being young) anymore. I think they have felt that. The core group that is on the floor are juniors and seniors. They have high expectations, but we have to have some experience doing some of those things—closing out tough matches and turning those tough losses into wins.”