ABILENE – The 2018 edition of the Abilene Christian volleyball team today returned to campus, and following a full day of meetings and meals, will hit the weight room first thing Wednesday morning as the Wildcats look to build off last year’s surprise run at the Southland Conference Championship.
For those that don’t know, ACU finished its first season under head coach Angela Mooney at 13-18 overall (7-9 vs. Southland), edging its way into the league’s postseason dance on a tiebreaker over Incarnate Word for the eighth and final seed.
The Wildcats went into that tournament having lost three of its last four matches, but in the opening contest they pulled off one of the league’s most memorable upsets, coming back from a set down to stun top-seeded Stephen F. Austin in five sets. And the following day, ACU knocked off Houston Baptist with each of its set victories decided by two points.
Outside hitter Jacey Smith and setter Kendall Bosse were named to the Southland Conference All-Tournament team following the team’s defeat to Central Arkansas in the championship match, and both are back this fall to help carry an experienced side to the top of the league standings.
“It’s crazy to think that my senior year has already arrived,” said Smith, a native of Wimberley, Texas, who has averaged 2.56 kills per set through her first three seasons. “I feel so blessed to have such a great group of girls surround me, and I’m looking forward to continuing our relationships personally, and growing as a team on the court.”
“I’m so excited to start my senior season and pick up where we left off last year,” added Ingram, Texas native Bosse, who enters this season needing 33 assists to reach 2,000 for her career. “Playing alongside my teammates who have turned into lifelong friends has been such an incredible experience and I’m excited to see where this year takes us.”
Smith (3.28 points per set) and Bosse (8.98 assists) will be joined on the court by several additional veteran starters, including libero Amanda Chapa (4.96 digs), middle blockers Lauren Walker (1.02 blocks) and Lorin McNeil (1.08), and attackers Katelyn Mueller (2.44 kills) and Marybeth Sandercox (1.83).
Bosse, Chapa, Smith, McNeil, Mueller and Walker all started 30 or more matches in 2017, while Sandercox (20 starts) split time with senior Corinne Grandcolas (11). This level of experience and production will make it a challenge for any teammate to crack the starting rotation, but Mooney’s roster is plenty deep and features several driven newcomers.
The Wildcats added former Texas Tech and Baylor products Eighmy Dobbins (OH) and Lexie Rawls (L/ DS) this past January, and last fall Mooney inked her first freshman signing class of Temi Fayiga (S), Madison Rohre (S), Lindsey Toney (OH / RS) and Brittney Roberts (OH).
The Wildcats also return veteran defensive specialists Mikai Brown, Lillian Drever and Sofia Resendiz, setter Makenzie Kesler, and middle blockers Peyten Boutwell, Courtney Miller and Kennedy Shelstead.
Boutwell and Shelstead both redshirted in 2017 after transferring into ACU from UC Riverside and John Brown, respectively.
“After a great first year at ACU, I am anxious to get started on year two,” said Mooney. “Our team made tremendous strides in all areas over the spring and summer months.
“The players have matured and the level of play in the gym has increased dramatically but also the culture of our program is night and day different. This is an exciting group to watch compete and spend time around. We’re all looking forward to a successful second year.”
The team holds its first practice Wednesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and meets up again between 3 and 5:30 p.m. The first few weeks before the start of classes also feature a retreat, photo session, frequent team activities and an instraquad scrimmage the night of Friday, Aug. 17 (6 p.m.), which will be open to the public.
The team flies to Atlanta on Aug. 22 for its first regular-season tournament, which will be hosted by Georgia Tech between the 24 and 25. While there, the Wildcats will face Georgetown, Winthrop, Idaho State and the host Yellow Jackets.