Sept. 2, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
A year older and certainly a year wiser, the Florida State University volleyball team that was dominated by newcomers in 2003 looks to build on a season of on-the-job training when its opens up the new campaign this Friday (September 3).
The Seminoles hit the ground running with a pair of matches during the first day of the FSU Invitational as they play host to Sam Houston State at 12:30 p.m. at the Lucy McDaniel Court. Florida State returns that evening to take on instate rival Stetson at 7:30 p.m. The tournament concludes on Saturday with the Seminoles taking on South Alabama at 6 p.m.
“Anything can happen opening weekend,” floor boss Todd Kress said. “Cheryl Carlson at Stetson did some good things at VCU and I expect she’ll turn that program around. South Alabama has a lot of good young players with a lot of potential and Sam Houston Stated was picked in middle of solid conference. I expect all three teams to provide some stiff competition. It will be a good weekend for solid competition.”
Entering his third season at Florida State, Kress has high expectations for a squad that experienced several growing pains during a 16-17 2003 season. But what was inexperience last season has been translated to valuable knowledge for 2004. The Seminoles return four starters from last year’s team with three more players starting at least ten games during the 2004 campaign. All told, Florida State brings back 78 percent of starts from last season.
Leading this charge of returners is the middle blocking combination of seniors Aisha Carr (Dallas, Texas) and Amanda Santos (Minas Gerais, Brazil). The duo was tops on the team at 1.02 and 1.32 blocks per game, respectively, with Santos ranking third in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year and topping the squad with a .285 hitting percentage.
After a tremendous rookie season in which she earned ACC and AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year honors, sophomore Cassie McLaughlin (Cary, Ill.) is expected to expand on her successful first campaign. Second on the team in 2003 with 2.95 kills per game, she also contributed off her serve as she rated sixth in the league last year with 44 service aces.
The most competitive battle for playing time is among a trio of players at left side. Junior Kristin Rust (Cincinnati, Ohio) led the squad with 3.20 kills per game, but sophomores Nikki Anthony (Pickens, S.C.) and Sara Griffin (Hereford, Texas) also got their turn in the rotation and showed flashes of strong play. Anthony rated third on the team at 2.43 kpg, while Griffin contributed 1.75 kpg.
Now that the school’s all-time leader in assists Jen Anderson has graduated, the responsibility of running Kress’ fast pace offense falls on the shoulders of sophomore Jessica Skower (Naples, Fla.). Skower is not going into the season totally green having played in 32 of 33 matches last year with ten starts. Standing in at 6-foot-1, Skower has the ability to contribute in many different ways as was seen by her career-high six kills against Duke and five blocks on four different occasions.
“It’s going to be the first time that we’ve actually come out and run the offense in a game-like situation so that that will be completely new,” Kress added. “We’ve done some major revamping of the offense this year. I completely revamped it and made it quicker and then (associate head coach) Rita (Buck-Crockett) revamped the defense so what I look for the first match is some great things and I look for where we’ll make some mistakes that we wont’ make in our second or third week.”
One luxury that Kress has at his disposal that hasn’t been there in his first two seasons in Tallahassee has been reliable depth. Florida State is at least two deep at every position this year, and even three deep in some spots, with players who are more than capable of competing at the ACC level.
This is the first year that we have legitimate depth at every position,” Kress noted. “They’re competing, they’re competitive in practices, they’re eager to learn and they’re working hard so I’m looking for good things this first weekend. It’s going to be a good weekend for us to get some different people in and seem them in different spots.”
Bolstering that depth while also competing for playing time is a group of five talented newcomers. Rookie Summer Weissing (Boca Raton, Fla.) has already caught the coach’s eyes and is in serious contention for a spot at libero. Fellow freshman Danielle MacDonald (Holly Hill, Fla.) is vying for time at both middle blocker and opposite. Also working their way in at those positions is junior college transfers Andreza Santos (Minas Gerais, Brazil), the younger sister of Amanda Santos from the College of Southern Idaho, and Barton County Community College transfer Lauren Walker (Corona, Calif.).