June 21, 1999 - by
Volleyball Season Preview: Great Expectations

August 11, 1998

TALLAHASSEE. Fla. – A team with five seniors, a team with all starters returning (except
defensive specialist Christy Minko) … there is no question that there are
great expectations for the 1998 Florida State volleyball season. But along
with great expectation, must come perspective and that’s exactly what Head
Coach Dr. Cecile Reynaud and the Lady Seminoles intend to keep in 1998.
There will be no looking ahead to the Atlantic Coast Conference season, the
ACC Tournament or NCAA postseason play. Rather, Florida State will take
the season one day at a time, one match at a time.

“What’s so exciting this season is the potential of this team and the fact
that there is a large number of upperclassmen who contribute and have
started in the past,” Reynaud said. “This is the first team that I remember
having all of the starters returning. This team has paid its dues as a
group and should really come into this 1998 season expecting a lot from
themselves. We’ve got good height, good ball control, both of our setters
are outstanding. This team is a group that can go as far as they want to –
potentially.”

Leadership will be a key in the success of this year’s squad. Five
Florida State seniors highlight a group of 10 returning letterwinners.
Although all 10 returnees have had an opportunity to contribute at Florida
State, it will be the five seniors who will provide the wisdom on and off
the court.

“A team with five seniors …. it’s really their team,” Reynaud said. “I
think we have five people who will really contribute in a leadership role
and that’s always enjoyable as a coach. You don’t really sit back, but you
know that they will handle some things for you. So competitively, we hope
we’ve trained them to give them the opportunity to be as successful as they
want to be.”

After finishing second in the Atlantic Coast Conference race and returning
to NCAA postseason play, the Lady Seminoles will once again focus on
achieving such status.

“The fact that we were very successful last year is a motivating factor
for this team in the respect that they just set their goals a bit higher,”
Reynaud said. “Our schedule is going to be very competitive. We are going
to play some teams that will be very challenging.”

OUTSIDES

Probably the Lady Seminoles’ strongest area, the outside hitter position
will showcase a wealth of talent. Headlining this position will be seniors
Holly Schneider and LaToya Presberry. Last season, Schneider, a three-year
starter, led the team with 400 kills, 401 digs and 57 services aces and
earned second team All-ACC and All-ACC Tournament honors.

“Holly has started her entire career and has really turned it up as she’s
gotten older,” Reynaud said. “We look for her to be one of our primary
passers. Her blocking has improved tremendously and defensively, she’s
certainly one of our strongest players.”

Presberry had recorded 12 matches of double-digit kills and six
double-doubles before being sidelined for the season after 15 matches.

“LaToya has certainly had a successful career,” Reynaud said. “She will
go out with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm and she’s a real strong
leader on the floor. The team reponds to her and respects her as a
player.”

Also providing senior leadership is Sarah Rickertsen. A valuable member
of the team, Rickertsen saw significant action late in the season and
played in 21 matches.

“Sarah is absolutely one of the finest people I’ve ever had the chance to
coach,” Reynaud said. “She’s a role player and has played in every role.
She’s ready to go in any situation.”

A pleasant surprise to the FSU lineup last season was the outstanding play
of rookies Kate Hemlepp and Jennifer Werrick. Hemlepp, who was named the
ACC Rookie of the Year, cracked the FSU starting lineup early. She
recorded six matches with double-digit digs and had four double-doubles on
the year. Werrick didn’t see action until mid-October due to an attempt to
redshirt her after early injuries. Werrick made up for lost time, tallying
double-digit kills in 12 of 13 matches played, including nine
double-doubles. She earned ACC All-Freshman team honors. Hemlepp and
Werrick were each named the ACC Rookie of the Week three times during the
season.

“Kate had an outstanding freshman season and had the opponents’ attention
every time she was on the floor,” Reynaud said. “She will be very hard to
stop as she continues to get more experience. Jennifer sacrificed half of
her freshman year, but had to come in and take a starting position and had
a remarkable performance her first time on the floor. She’s a very good
all-around player.”

Newcomer Luana Ruiz Azevedo is a strong passer and will benefit from
playing behind the veterans while gaining experience at the collegiate
level.

MIDDLES

Perhaps the most dominating returning middle hitters in the ACC, senior
Susan Hawks and junior Aisha Thornton will continue to tower over the
competition. Thornton’s .358 hitting percentage led the ACC, while Hawks
ranked among the league’s top four in both hitting (.339) and blocking
(1.13 per game).

Hawks, a second team all-ACC selection, hit .412 or better in 16 matches
while ranking first on the team with 31 solo blocks and 135 total blocks.
She also had double-digit kills in 13 matches.

“Susan is the mainstay on our team,” Reynaud said. “She made an impact as
a freshman and is still making an impact. She is sincere, dedicated,
competitive and a no-nonsense kind of player who likes to have fun, but
still gets the job done. We look for her to lead the younger middles and
be a good role model for them.”

Thornton tallied double-digit kills in 22 matches and was second on the
team with 26 solo blocks and 123 total blocks.

“Aisha led the conference most of the year in hitting and continued with a
great spring season,” Reynaud said. “She has gained even more confidence
and should be very dominating this year.”

Rounding out the middle hitters are freshmen Norisha Campbell and
Elizabeth Pound. Both players possess solid athletic skills and with
experience should provide depth to the position.

SETTERS

For the second straight season, the setting duties for Florida State will
fall on the hands of two very capable players in senior Fiona Bolten and
junior Kensy Zulueta.

Last season, Bolten emerged as the squad’s primary setter totaling 1235
assists in starting 28 matches. A second team All-ACC and AVCA
All-District selection, Bolten set a new FSU record for assists in a game
with 81 against Virginia.

“Fiona is quite athletic as a setter and I think that she’s ready to take
the team as far as they want to go,” Reynaud said. “She’s very quick and
is a highly-motivated person. We look for her to have a great year.”

Zulueta saw action in 11 matches last season, including six matches as the
starter in place of the injured Bolten. A strong server, Zulueta can also
play solid back row defense.

“Kensy has certainly been a contributor and last year was on the floor
when Fiona was hurt,” Reynaud said. “She trains very hard and is very
competitive. She wants to do whatever she can to help this team be
successful.”

DEFENSE

Junior Courtney Dipert will assume the defensive specialist duties for the
Lady Seminoles. Dipert played in 15 matches, including 12 ACC contests in
1997.

“Courtney has been a reliable defensive player for us in a reserve role
the past two seasons,” Reynaud said. “We will again look to her for help
in the back row.”

Freshman Melissa Crews, a solid passer and server, will also help in this
aspect of the game.

SCHEDULE

The strength of Florida State’s schedule will present a great challenge
for the Lady Seminoles. Aside from the always rigorous ACC slate, FSU
will face six other teams who made NCAA appearances last season. In all,
the Lady Seminoles will play 11 matches against eight NCAA teams. Three
tournaments, including the Santa Barbara Tournament, featuring 1997 NCAA
Tournament teams Long Beach State, Pepperdine and Santa Barbara, highlight
the 1998 schedule.

Along with Florida State, Maryland and Clemson also made NCAA tournament
appearances last season. This season,FSU was unanimously selected to
finish first in the ACC race, according to the ACC preseason coaches poll.

“It is important we start out strong,” Reynaud said. “While it is
always our goal to win the ACC, we have to remember that we play a lot of
games before that. We’ll take it one game at a time. Our schedule is set
up ideally so that we can get some good competition before we start
conference play.”

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