Aug 27, 2013
By Taylor Wright | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – The UT Arlington volleyball team is excited to begin the new era of Maverick Athletics in the Sun Belt Conference with the start of the 2013 season.
"The Sun Belt is a very competitive conference for volleyball with some good teams," UT Arlington coach Diane Seymour said. "The last few years the Sun Belt has had two teams advance to the NCAA Tournament, which is great for us as that is always our ultimate goal."
The Mavs will be the first UT Arlington team to compete in the Sun Belt with the 2013 UTA Hilton Invitational. UTA will take on Abilene Christian on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. CT in College Park Center to kick off the 2013 campaign. The Mavericks will then face Grambling State at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 31 before concluding the tournament against former Western Athletic Conference rival Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m.
"We tend to play pretty well at home, so having our first matches at CPC will be a good confidence booster," Seymour said. "We have a good field of teams coming in this year, some that are familiar and some that we have not played very much."
The Mavs will face stiff competition in Mississippi State, Baylor and Tulsa in the Baylor Classic in Waco, Texas Sept. 6-7. UT Arlington will also host a second tournament at home Sept. 13-14. The Mavs will face UTSA, Mississippi Valley State and Texas A&M - Corpus Christi in the 2013 Hilton Maverick Classic. UTA volleyball will conclude their pre-conference tournament slate in Boone, N.C. at the Black and Gold Challenge, hosted by Appalachian State.
"I think our preconference schedule will prepare us very well," Seymour said. "The Baylor Classic will be a very competitive tournament and having the opportunity to travel east to Appalachian State before conference play starts is exactly why we choose to participate in that tournament."
This year's squad features 10 returners along with four newcomers. Of the 10 returners, five starters will be back to help lead the Mavericks to success: Charmaine Whitmore, Taylor Gross, Shelby Dickson, Amanda Welsh and Ashley Bennett.
Whitmore started 27 matches for the Mavs last season, her first with the program after transferring from Arkansas. She led the team with 119 total blocks in 2012, averaging 1.21 per set.
"I think Whitmore is going to provide a big wow factor this season. She's a dynamic athlete and I see her having a lot of big nights for us," Seymour said.
Gross, an All-WAC Second Team member, played in all 31 matches last season, while starting in 23. She finished the year second on the squad in kills with 264, averaging 2.44 per set. Stacey Koch emerged as a powerful hitter in her 2012 freshman campaign. She tallied 69 kills, 1.86 per set, in just 15 matches.
"I see Gross having another good year as well as Koch. She has gotten used to the college pace and could have a dominant season on the right side," Seymour said.
Dickson was dominant in 2012 with team leading numbers in kills, 289 (2.56 per set), and digs, 413 (3.65 per set). She notched 12 double-double performances last season in digs and kills to lead the Mavs. Karli Nanny and Hannah Baptiste, both sophomores, saw some action last year and will be competing for the second outside hitter position in 2013.
"I'm excited about the outside hitter position. I think that Dickson will benefit from having a season under her belt and is ready for her senior season. There is a good battle going on between Nanny and Baptiste for the second outside hitter position." Seymour said.
Megan Casey, a defensive specialist from Newtown, Conn., finished fifth on the team in 2012 in digs with 165, averaging 2.20 per set. Caitlyn Cooney, a libero from Houston, Texas, saw action in 28 matches last season and tallied 128 digs while finishing third on the team in aces with 13.
"The libero position will be a constant battle between Casey, who is coming back for her senior year, and Cooney, who had a great spring season and is always a competitor," Seymour said.
The most seasoned starter, Welsh, started all 31 matches in 2012 as a setter. She led the Mavs in assists with 978, averaging 8.65 per set, and aces with 30. She tallied five double-doubles last season in digs and assists.
"We'll be solid in the setting position with Welsh coming back for her third season," Seymour said.
"Story will bring great experience to the team this season," Seymour said. "She will add leadership in the gym to the outside hitter position.
"We are really excited about our three freshmen. Wheeler is an incredible athlete and we expect big things from her, not only this year but in her career at the setting position," Seymour added. "Sharratt is a really competitive middle blocker and her time on the floor will come. MarDock, a devensive specialist, is coming from high level of play high school program where she expects to win, so we are really excited to have her with us this season."
UT Arlington volleyball will open Sun Belt Conference play at home against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. The Sun Belt Conference slate is divided into 18 home-and-home matches, giving the Mavs nine home and nine away conference events. For the complete UTA volleyball schedule, please click here. All home UTA volleyball matches will have a live video stream available.