GREENSBORO, N.C. – Coming off a great season in the fall that saw the team advance to the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament, the UNCG volleyball team will kick off its spring schedule this weekend.
"I'm really looking forward to the start of the spring season," said coach Patrick Nicholas. "We have had a few injuries this spring that has been holding back our training a bit. We have taken advantage of the spring to work, though, on our offense. We have tried to fine tune it and speed things up, which will make things even more exciting."
The Spartans will have four days of competition this spring, highlighted by a pair of home tournaments. UNCG will get things started this weekend at the Wake Forest Invitational on Saturday.
"We will kick off this weekend at Wake Forest, which is always a big tournament," Nicholas said. "It will be a big test on Saturday and will give us a great test to see where we are so far."
After this weekend, the Spartans will return home next Saturday as they host North Carolina Central for a match. The following weekend UNCG will hold an intrasquad sand volleyball tournament. The Spartans will wrap up the spring as they host eight schools for their spring tournament.
Last season, UNCG have an overall record of 22-12 and was 9-7 in the Southern Conference. The Spartans were able to advance to the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament after defeating Furman in the quarterfinals. UNCG fell in its semifinal match against College of Charleston to end its season.
"I thought (last) season was a pretty good season," said Nicholas. "We were picked to finish fourth in the North Division and were in the hunt for the division championship up until the last weekend. We had a great season and went into the tournament and got a big win over a Furman team. We knew if you want to win a conference championship you have to go through Furman and College of Charleston and unfortunately for us we had them both back-to-back. It was a really good year and we have something to build on."
The Spartans will have to replace a lot of their offense in the fall as they lost five seniors due to graduation, including their starting middle blocker, outside hitter and opposite hitter.
"Numerically speaking losing five seniors is huge and you can't underestimate that," Nicholas said. "It will have a big impact on us no doubt. The other side of that is there is a lot of potential for young people to come in and step up. That's the question. How will the freshman step up and some of the sophomores that we have now, as well as the incoming freshman next season, so in that respect it is kind of exciting."
UNCG will also have a new face on the sidelines next season as Abbi Blackburn has joined the team in the assistant coach capacity. Blackburn was formerly an assistant at Tusculum College the past three seasons and was a standout at Alabama prior to that. She replaces former assistant Laura Tomes who decided to pursue her master's degree in engineering at the University of California, Berkley.
"Abbi has been great as she is really enthusiastic and positive," said Nicholas. "She has a real good technical background and is great at teaching fundamentals. She is very encouraging and has stepped in and run with everything real fast."
UNCG volleyball spring schedule:
March 26: Wake Forest Spring Invitational
April 2: UNCG vs. North Carolina Central
April 9: UNCG intersquad sand tournament
April 16: UNCG Spring Tournament
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