MTSU is back in session this week, so it means all of the fall sports on campus are in back in action.
During the past couple of weeks, we have broken down the Blue Raider football team. However, the MTSU soccer and volleyball team also starts their seasons this week.
Both squads are looking to put a disappointing 2013 behind them, the program’s first season in Conference USA. The soccer team missed the C-USA postseason tournament, while the volleyball team fell in the opening round of the league tourney at home. At the same time, both teams are using the lack of success last season as motivation, but they have decided also to move on to 2014.
“I think it is a combination of both, we are motivated from last year, but this year is a complete new year with seven new players,” MTSU volleyball middle blocker Rachel Shaughnessy said. “We are ready to step on the court, and do what we do best.
Long time Blue Raider soccer head coach Aston Rhoden added: “For the past 11 years, we had been functioning in the top three of the league, winning several titles along the way. Not making the tournament was a first for us, but I think some of the kids who have won a lot of things here are using that as motivation. We are trying to put that behind us, and it is a new year, new team and a different attitude.”
Each of the teams are still going through a youth movement with only a few players either transferring or graduating from the program after 2013. Also, both the volleyball and soccer teams have a local player who has become one of the best on the respective teams.
The volleyball team is led by former Riverdale star and junior outside hitter Chelsea Ross, while the soccer team has former Siegel star and current junior forward Tori Hawkins. Last season, Ross led the volleyball team in kills (391), kills per set (3.43) and saves (31), while Hawkins scored four goals and had four assists for the soccer team.
As for this season, both teams were picked in the middle of the respective preseason polls. The soccer team was picked tied for ninth, while the volleyball was picked seventh, but each expects bigger things this season.
“It is a very difficult conference, and there are some really strong teams and very good coaching,” Rhoden said. “I think for us we got to stay healthy. It is about us being disciplined in terms of our tactical strategy per game. We still have a young team, a significant amount of sophomores and juniors.”
Volleyball setter Ailime de Fretia added: “It is now more mental. Last year, we beat UTSA, and we were the only team in C-USA to beat them. They were the C-USA champions. We have good players, defense, setters and hitters, and we need to put all of those things together. We also need to work on our mental and be prepared to play tough teams and play hard all of the time. It is not going to be easy, but we can do this. We can have a good season.”
Both teams need to get back to their winning ways in hopes of competing for their first C-USA title – something that was commonplace in the Sun Belt Conference.