Texas State’s volleyball team is entering its second season in the Sun Belt Conference, and the Bobcats are eager to reclaim their title after winning the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament.
“It’s motivation because we definitely want a repeat,” senior setter Caylin Mahoney said. “I’m really excited to start playing and seeing what this team will do because I know we can do even better this year.”
The Bobcats started their 2014 season practices this past Saturday, and Coach Karen Chisum is enthusiastic about how far the team has already come. Last season, Texas State led the conference in kills (1,847) with a .219 hitting percentage, good for third in the conference. The team finished in the top three in kills, hitting percentage, digs, service aces and blocks.
“I like where we are,” Chisum said. “We have a lot more depth, we have a lot of competitive kids here and we have 21 very good players.”
Mahoney, last year’s Most Outstanding Player of the SBC Championship Tournament, has made her mark while at Texas State. Mahoney finished with 1,256 assists, the sixth most in the conference, and was named the Delta Zeta Classic’s Most Valuable Setter.
“This group of girls is very competitive,” Mahoney said. “We all like to have fun and win, which is a good thing. It’s just really exciting to finally all come together and practice together. (In practice) I’m focused on helping make my teammates better by trying to get more deceptive and trying to get them more one-on-ones (one setter verses one blocker).”
Out of the newcomers, Chisum suggests keeping an eye on three freshman players: outside hitter Sydney Paradeaux, middle blocker Lauren Kirch and defensive player Alex Silver.
“I was really intimidated at first,” Paradeaux said. “The first couple of days have been very different from what I experienced in high school. With the days going on, it’s getting a lot better.”
Ashlee Hilbun, Amari Deardorff and Molly Arhens have graduated, leaving the Bobcats with three holes in the rotation. Deardorff ranked seventh in kills in last year’s conference, and Hilbun’s .313 hitting percentage placed her fourth. Junior middle blockers Amanda Watkins and Brooke Smith will fill their spots.
“Watkins and Smith have shown us some good things the past few days,” Chisum said. “Watkins is eager, and Smith has been working her tail off.”
Texas State opens the season with three consecutive road games against non-conference opponents Lamar, Houston and Wake Forest. The Bobcats’ home opener, the first of a six-game home stand, is against the Baylor Bears on Sept. 3.