Aug. 11, 1999
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – FSU Head Coach Dr. Cecile Reynaud and the Lady Seminole volleyball team will begin preparing for the 1999 season when the squad begins practice on Friday, August 13th. Following physicals on Friday morning, the team will practice from 10 to 11 a.m., 2 to 5 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m. at Tully Gymnasium. FSU plans to undergo three practices a day for much of the preseason until classes begin on Monday, August 30th. The Lady Seminoles will open the season on Wednesday, Sept. 1 vs. Auburn at 7 p.m. at Tully Gym.
1999 SEASON OUTLOOK
All the pieces are there. The task at hand: making them fit together. That?s what Florida State Head Coach Dr. Cecile Reynaud and the Lady Seminole volleyball team will be facing in 1999. After leading a veteran squad to the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference title last year, Reynaud returns seven letterwinners, but just two starters and welcomes six new faces to the team this fall.
“Losing our starting setter — that’s a concern,” Reynaud said, “and with five seniors graduated and six freshmen on the roster, we are going to have to go back to the very basics and make sure we cover everything from beginning to end. It will just be a matter of how much time it takes for them to learn everything.”
The FSU coaching staff will also have a new look this season. Former Olympian Sue Woodstra, who joined the staff last spring, and second year assistant coach Amy Bambenek, will help Reynaud prepare the young squad.
“We really have good chemistry on the staff,” Reynaud said. “Sue provides a lot of technical experience and tactical knowledge while Amy has a great working relationship with the players.”
Reynaud is looking forward to a competitive August, when she will be able to put the team through a variety of training and competitive drills, giving each player an opportunity to win positions.
“I can’t think of another season where there were so many unanswered questions going in,” Reynaud said. “So I think this season definitely has to be considered a rebuilding year, but I am really pleased with the type of athletes we have coming in to rebuild with.”
Junior returning starter Jennifer Werrick will lead a young but talented group of outside hitters. As a sophomore last season, Werrick played in 34 matches and was second on the team in kills (432), kills per game (3.76) and digs (354). She was instrumental in the team’s success at the ACC Tournament, recording double-doubles in each of the three matches.
Gone are standout four-year starters Holly Schneider and LaToya Washington and junior Kate Hemlepp, but enter freshmen Erica Bunch, Kristin Frye, Martha Hamilton and Alex Sevillano. Bunch, the first local player to sign with the Lady Seminole volleyball program, was a two-time all-state player. She will be given the opportunity to hit on the left side. Frye, who hails from Northrop High School in Ft. Wayne, Ind., the same high school as Schneider, was a 1998 USA Volleyball first team All-American. The state of Indiana’s 1998 Gatorade High School Girls Player of the Year, she will be valuable on the right side. Hamilton, who comes to FSU from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, enrolled at FSU in January and practiced with the team in the spring. She was selected the most valuable player of her high school squad which was ranked No. 2 in Ontario. Sevillano, from Clearwater, Fla., was a two time first team all-state selection who helped lead her high school team to four conference championships and three district titles. She could also play a role on defense.
Sophomore Luana Ruiz Azevedo also returns and will have an opportunity to contribute. Although she didn’t see match action in 1998, just having the opportunity to practice with last year’s seniors will be a great benefit to her. Sophomore Norisha Campbell, who is listed as a middle hitter, may also see some action as an outside hitter.
“The biggest question in this area is going to be who can pass with the loss of Holly and LaToya, who were both excellent passers,” Reynaud said. “Our strength at this position will definitely be Jennifer. She has had a great two years and has certainly played against some of the top teams in the country. Being the only experienced returnee at this position, her role will be very important.”
With a great deal of size and experience, the team’s strength may lie with the middle hitters this season. Three-year starter Aisha Thornton returns for her senior year as not only the team’s top player, but perhaps the most dominating player in the ACC. An AVCA All District and first team All-ACC selection in 1998, Thornton led the team and ACC in hitting at .352 and ranked first on the squad with 134 total blocks.
Norisha Campbell, who saw the most action (11 matches) of all the rookies in 1998, really began to come into her own as the season progressed. This summer, she was one of 20 top collegiate and high school volleyball players from around the country who was chosen to train for the Junior National Team. That experience, coupled with a solid spring season, will make her a force to be reckoned with in 1999.
“Norisha is going to get a lot of swings no matter where we play her on the court,” Reynaud said. “We look for her to play a major role on this year’s team.”
Sophomore Elizabeth Pound returns after a strong spring season and newcomers Frye and Dawn Hough will add depth to the position. Hough, who hails from Brandon, Fla., was a first team all-state, all-county and all-conference honoree.
“The middles is a position in which we feel we are somewhat deep,” Reynaud said. “Aisha has three years of solid experience and has been working very hard in the weight room this summer. Norisha may play in the middle, on the right side or all three in a rotation. She’s somebody that we are looking to move around to different positions. Elizabeth played very well during the spring and should be ready to step in and contribute.”
The biggest question mark this season is at setter. Two year starter Fiona Bolten, a two-time AVCA All-District and All-ACC honoree, has moved on to the coaching ranks and must be replaced. In line for the job are returning senior Kensy Zulueta and freshman Jamie Hibbard.
Zulueta missed a great deal of last season following ear surgery. She saw action in just five matches in 1998, but has been a contributor for three years, including handling the primary starting duties as a freshman. A native of Ft. Wayne, Ind., Hibbard was a first team all-area and all-conference player who earned all-tournament team honors at the 1998 USA Junior Nationals.
“Both Kensy and Jamie will be beginning the fall with a clean slate,” Reynaud said. “We’ll have to train to see who can make the team win.”
The defensive duties will once again be assumed by senior Courtney Dipert. She will be helped by freshman Alexandra Sevillano. The enthusiastic Dipert had a solid junior season, playing in 35 matches, including all 16 ACC matches.
“Both Courtney and Alexandra will be pushed very hard defensively and also receiving serves,” Reynaud said. “We’ll also have to see what type of serve they have.”
Florida State will open its challenging 1999 season with four straight matches at home. Auburn starts things off for the Tribe followed by the annual Florida State Classic. The year’s Classic field includes Florida International and two 1998 NCAA Tournament teams in South Carolina and Indiana. In all, the Lady Seminoles will play 14 matches against 10 1998 NCAA Tournament teams.
FSU will travel to Illinois in September, the home state of seniors Aisha Thornton and Courtney Dipert, for a rematch with NCAA Tournament opponent Northern Illinois when the Lady Seminoles participate in the Huskies’ tournament.
The ACC was one of just six conferences to place four or more teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament and the league will once again be very competitive. Joining the Lady Seminoles in postseason play last year were Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia.
“I think we’ll have our work cut out for us this season with the kind of schedule we have in place,” Reynaud said. “Coming into the season, I don’t have any preconceived notions and we are going to try to find out what combinations will work best on the floor. I think I am just as excited as I was last year about getting things started. I really look forward to the challenge.”