Volleyball Season Preview

By Doug Fitzgerald published August 17, 2007

Opponents might call on the Army for help when they face the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs volleyball team this season. That's because the Mountain Lions have already employed the services of both the Air Force and the Navy.

The Mountain Lions return top two scorers from this past season. Brooke Akers, who transferred to UCCS from the Air Force Academy prior to the 2006 season, led the Mountain Lions with 2.69 kills per game. Diane Sheldon, who came from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005, posted 2.76 kills per game.

Both are back as seniors for the 2007 campaign and they won't be alone. UCCS returns four more seniors (Andrea Weedman, Laura Meeter, Stephanie Laband and Lindsey Myers), all of whom will play a big role.

"I feel like we have the players -- at every position -- to compete at a very high level," said UCCS coach Jessica Wood.

Just how high that level could be will be tested by fire from the beginning of the season since five of the Mountain Lions' first six opponents are nationally ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches' Association preseason polls. On Aug. 24, UCCS begins a four-game tournament in Tampa, Fla., that reads like a who's who of nationally-ranked teams. The Mountain Lions open the season against Western Washington, which is ranked No. 23 in the NCAA Division II preseason poll. Later the same day, the Mountain Lions will take on California Baptist, which is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA preseason poll.

Then the fun really begins. UCCS faces No. 1 ranked Tampa and No. 10-ranked Hillsdale on Aug. 25. After facing a very good Eckerd team on the 27th, the Mountain Lions head to another tournament, this time in Kansas City, where they will open against No. 22 Rockhurst on Aug.31.

As Shaggy and Scooby Doo would say, "Zoinks!"

"We did that on purpose," said Wood. "To be the best you have to see the best. We're perfectly capable of playing at that level."

One reason for that optimism is the improved play of Sheldon. Through the first 17 matches of the 2006 season, she averaged 2.33 kills per game while hitting .062. While those numbers are decent enough, they are nowhere near the 3.47 kills per game and .248 hitting percentage that the Colorado Springs Christian School graduate posted over the final 11 matches of the season.

The reason for the improvement is simple: health.

"Diane battled a lot of injuries and actually had shoulder surgery in the spring of 2006," said Wood. "We knew that would slow her down at the beginning of last season. She pushed her way through it and is that much stronger as a result."

Another reason is Akers, who was the model of consistency a season ago while earning second-team all-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors. The 6-foot-2 middle blocker was a force with 114 blocks last season and has shown even greater quickness and agility to go with her veteran savvy.

The Mountain Lions also return their top six defensive players. Weedman and Meeter own the top two single-season digs totals in school history and managed 436 and 517 respectively a season ago. Setters Cortney Weedman and Jessica Stewart were third and fourth in digs last year with 211 and 203. Fifth and sixth on the list were Sheldon and defensive specialist Sarah Broerman. On top of that, Wood has been formulating strategies to better utilize Andrea Weedman (Yes, she's Cortney's older sister) in the defense. The elder Weedman is already second on the UCCS all-time digs list and needs just 148 more to set a new school career record.

Setters Cortney Weedman and Stewart will again quarterback the UCCS offense in a two-setter lineup. Weedman, a sophomore, averaged 5.23 assists and a team-best 58.7 setting percentage. Stewart, a junior, led the team with 6.54 assists per game.

Joining Akers in the middle will be sophomore Heidi Fehringer, who replaces graduated all-RMAC performer Caroline Ottino, and freshman Michelle Kissler. While less experienced than her predecessor, Fehringer is quick and explosive and should develop into an offensive force. Although she had limited playing time in 2006, she showed a glimpse of her potential on Oct. 26 against New Mexico Highlands when she and Myers came off the bench and combined to record three blocks in four rallies.

Speaking of Myers, she's slated to get the playing time at right side hitter that previously went to now-graduated Jill Wrenn. Myers is strong on the block and has a setter's hands, allowing UCCS to stay in system even when the setter must make the initial dig. Joining Myers on the right side is Laband, who is one of the best all-around players on the team.

Sheldon will be the thunder at outside hitter, but big things are also expected from redshirt freshman Lauren Orth and sophomore Cassey Santucci. Also factoring on the frontline when she's not busy defensively will be the elder Weedman, who was the team's third-highest scorer a year ago with 2.41 kills per game.

Wood feels that the 2007 Mountain Lions have no glaring weaknesses for opponents to exploit along with the talent to physically outmatch some. That has her thinking that more than just UCCS' fourth-straight RMAC playoff appearance might be possible.

"I'm really excited," said Wood. "I've never had a team come in so motivated, in shape and ready to play."

And a little military assistance doesn't hurt either.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino13MB
Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino13MB
Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino13MDSo.
Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino8MBFr.
Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino14MB
Jill WrennJill Wrenn5OH/RSFr.
Jill WrennJill Wrenn4RSSo.
Jill WrennJill Wrenn5RS
Jill WrennJill Wrenn5RS
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OHFr.
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OH/DSSr.
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OH/DSSr.
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OH/DSSr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Sarah BroermanSarah Broerman10DSFr.
Sarah BroermanSarah Broerman10DSSo.
Sarah BroermanSarah Broerman10DSJr.
Sarah BroermanSarah Broerman10DSSr.
Stephanie LabandStephanie Laband15OH/RSSr.
Stephanie LabandStephanie Laband15OH/RSSr.
Stephanie LabandStephanie Laband15OH/RSSr.
Cassey SantucciCassey Santucci12MB/OHSo.
Cassey SantucciCassey Santucci12MB/OHSo.
Cassey SantucciCassey Santucci12MB/OHSo.
Cassey SantucciCassey Santucci12MB/OHSo.
Cortney WeedmanCortney Weedman14S
Cortney WeedmanCortney Weedman14S
Michelle KisslerMichelle Kissler2RSFr.
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November 16, 2007Season ends with loss in NCAA TournamentKEARNEY, Neb. -- The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' first trip to the NCAA tournament ended all too quickly, as the Mountain Lions were beaten 3-0 (30-25, 32-30, 30-22) by the Metro State Roadrunners Friday in the first match of the Southwest regional at the University of Nebraska-Kearney's Health and Sports Center.
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