1997 Season Outlook
The Florida State Lady Seminoles enter the 1997 season focused and full of enthusiasm following a spring season and summer consisting of hard work on the court and in the weight room. Seminole fans can expect a mentally and physically stronger, highly-motivated group of individuals who together should form a successful unit.
"I thought we trained very hard this spring," head coach Cecile Reynaud said. "We focused on physical conditioning, strength-training and agility and we developed more individual programs for some of the players. We changed our practices to make them a little bit different. It was the same type of routine but we didn't spend a lot of time on the same activities over and over. We had a different focus every day."
Finishing among the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference is, as always, among the team's goals and this Lady Seminole squad may just have the talent, determination and heart to attain such status.
"As I look down the roster, it looks like a good team," Reynaud said. "To come off of a tough season and stay positive and continue to work hard is a tribute to all of their characters. They're great people, great volleyball players and I'd like to see them have a season that finds them on top in the ACC."
The outside hitter position will showcase a mix of the "old" with the "new." The position with probably the most depth will couple experienced, veteran players along with highly-regarded newcomers. Starting returnees Holly Schneider and LaToya Presberry, who will both be juniors, will anchor the corps. Presberry has been one of the squad's primary passers the past two years. She's a very explosive athlete and Coach Reynaud intends to use her in a variety of ways this season. Her 438 kills and 345 digs were tops on the squad in 1996. Schneider, FSU's other primary passer, can hit a variety of sets. She performed at a consistent level throughout last season and ranked second on the team in kills and digs.
Joining Presberry and Schneider is outside hitter Senior Laura Arnold. Arnold, one of three seniors on the team, saw a great deal of playing time last year, but was hampered with a shoulder injury. After having undergone shoulder surgery in January, Arnold looks to be back at full-strength at the start of the season.
"With Holly, LaToya and Laura all returning, I hope that we can get a little more movement in our offense this year and I think we'll be able to do that with the setting and passing that we've had," Reynaud said.
Junior Sarah Rickertsen, although not a starter, has seen a lot of playing time and has been a solid role player for the team.
"Sarah goes in when we need her and does a great job of blocking, passing and playing defense," Reynaud said.
Newcomers Jennifer Werrick and Kate Hemlepp will make an already strong area, even stronger. Werrick , who was named the Florida Player of the Year, should make an immediate impact. At 6-0, Werrick will be looked upon to help with blocking on the left side. Hemlepp was pegged a Volleyball Magazine All-American and was listed as one of the publication's "Fab 50" recruits. A left-handed player, she'll play on the right side. An excellent blocker as well, she has the ability to do a lot of things that opponents will have a hard time stopping.
"Jen is very athletic and has great ball control and we're looking for her to do a lot of things for us," Reynaud said. "Kate hits the ball hard, plays good defense, has good ball control and obviously will play a lot for us. She's going to be a key in our offense."
With the middle hitters healthy, this position could be one of the most dominating on the team. Susan Hawks and Susan Johnson should provide the leadership to the position, while Aisha Thornton, who gained valuable experience as a rookie, provides the strength.
Hawks, a junior, is considered to be the best blocker on the team. Johnson, a senior, represents versatility as she can play in the middle or on the right side. She has been a starter for much of the past two years and should see a lot of playing time this year. Thornton has the physical tools to dominate any match, against anybody. Her vast improvement from the beginning of the season to the end resulted in her selection to the ACC All-Freshman team.
"Susan Hawks has probably put on more muscle in the weight room this summer and spring than anyone else on the team," Reynaud said. "I think she is going to be very strong defensively at the net for us. We played her and Susan Johnson some on the right side this spring, to make sure we improved our blocking . Aisha worked very hard this spring and with the right set, she can do a lot of things offensively. With a couple of adjustments in the blocking department, she'll be able to shut anybody down and be very intimidating at the net."
Florida State will have the luxury of having two players who are capable of successfully filling the starting setter position. Junior Fiona Bolten, who sat out last year as a redshirt transfer from Kentucky, trained extremely hard the past year. Reynaud also notes Bolten's solid leadership skills which will be important to the team. Sophomore Kensy Zulueta saw action in 28 of 31 matches last season and was the squad's primary starter at the position. Zulueta also possesses a great serve and can play some solid defense in the back row.
"It's going to be a battle to see who starts," Reynaud said. "Both Fiona and Kensy are excellent setters and each will make a solid contribution to the team."
Defensive specialists Christy Minko and Courtney Dipert return to hold down the defensive duties for the Tribe. Minko, a senior, is considered the team's "spark plug." She saw playing time in 28 matches last season and has been a really big part of the heart and soul of the team the past two seasons. Dipert played in 22 matches in her rookie campaign and will be relied on heavily in a reserve role this fall.
"Either one of those two can go in and replace probably one of the middles in the back row just to give them a little rest," Reynaud said. "They are both very exciting defensive players."
Many of the Lady Seminoles will have a chance to play in front of their families and friends when Florida State heads north to compete in the Michigan Tournament and south to play in the Florida Atlantic Tournament. Combine these tournaments with a home-and-away series with rival-Florida and the always difficult ACC schedule, and the Tribe will once again enjoy a highly-competitive season of action. With three ACC teams advancing to NCAA play, the league, which was ranked as the third strongest volleyball conference in the country by the NCAA volleyball committee, will be as challenging as ever.
"As we look at the teams in the ACC, I think we have to be picked to finish in the top half of the conference simply because we're not going to be the young team anymore," Reynaud said. "We've been the inexperienced team the past couple of years, and although we'll have just three seniors, our juniors have a lot of experience.
"Our goal is always to play to the best of our ability. We want to finally win the ACC. We've been tied for first in the conference and we've played in the championship match twice. We want to finish first!"