Spartans Open 2012 at North Carolina Central Volleyball Invitational
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG volleyball team christens a new season Friday, making the short trip to Durham for the North Carolina Central Volleyball Invitational. The Spartans face the host Eagles at noon before ending the day with a match against Big South Conference preseason favorite and defending champion Liberty at 3:30.
"I expect us to compete really hard this weekend," head coach Patrick Nicholas said. "This is my fourth year with Ari [Lysacek] and Olivia [Humphries], so I am anxious to see how those two athletes progress early in the season. We start off with N.C. Central, who always gives us a challenge, and then turn around and play Liberty. Coach Shane Pinder always has a solid squad at Liberty so we will see very quickly how we measure up."
The Spartans look to improve on a 2011 season in which they finished 15-17 overall and 7-9 in Southern Conference play - just barely missing qualification for the league tournament. A total of five starters are back for UNCG, including 2011 SoCon Libero of the Year and current junior Kellie Orewiler.
Orewiler returns for her junior campaign after earning 2011 Southern Conference Libero of the Year honors. She ranked first in the SoCon in digs per set in league matches, racking up a stellar 5.31 average over 62 frames. Orewiler was also second among league players and 56th nationally with a 4.91 mark in all matches. The Mansfield, Ohio native posted double-figure digs in 29 of 32 matches and recorded 20 or more digs on 12 occasions. She is currently second on the UNCG career digs per set chart with an average of 4.24.
"Coach Nicholas has high expectations for the team but we also have high expectations for ourselves," Orewiler stated. "Our goal is to go 3-0 this weekend so we just need to apply the things on which we have been working during the preseason."
Another key player for the Spartans this season will be setter Ari Lysacek, the lone senior on the squad. She ran the offense to the tune of 795 assists (7.64 per set) last season and also posted double-figure helpers in all 29 matches she played - including a season-best 51 against Elon. Lysacek produced a pair of double-doubles via kills and assists, tallying 10 kills and 19 assists against East Tennessee State (Aug. 26) and 19 kills and 32 assists against Chattanooga (Oct. 8), in addition to nine double-double efforts where she reached double digits in assists and digs.
UNCG was selected to finish fourth in the Southern Conference North Division in 2012. However, just three points separate the Spartans and rival Elon in the poll. The top four squads from each division qualify for the SoCon Tournament, which will be held this season at Davidson. Defending league champion Samford was picked to win the North Division while College of Charleston is the favorite in the South Division.
GUESS WHO'S BACK...
Redshirt Junior Olivia Humphries returns to the roster this season after missing 2011 due to a shoulder injury. The Spartans will count on her not only to provide an offensive spark on the court, but also leadership off of it - as she was named a team tri-captain.
ABOUT N.C. CENTRAL...
The Eagles are under the direction of seventh-year head coach Georgette Crawford-Crooks. NCCU lost five letterwinners from a year ago, but returns six veterans - including three starters - from a squad that was 5-26 overall and 5-5 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference a season ago.
The Flames will present a tough challenge for the teams in this weekend's tournament, having been named the Big South preseason favorite after capturing the league championship in 2011. Liberty features a deep roster which includes six returning starters and seven true freshmen. The Flames were 20-13 overall and 12-2 in league play.
THE BOOK ON HAMPTON...
After a 13-14 campaign in 2011, the Pirates were selected to finish second in the MEAC Northern Division. Hampton which returns four starters and eight letterwinners from last season's squad, enters its sixth season under head coach Pedro Gonzalez.
UNCG will take next weekend off before returning to action at High Point Tuesday, Sept. 4. First serve at the Millis Center is slated for 7 p.m. The Spartans and Panthers will battle for the first time since Sept. 14, 2009 - a five-set High Point victory.
Keep up with the UNCG volleyball team all season by logging onto www.uncgspartans.com or following the squad on twitter @UNCGsports and @UNCG_Vball.
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