Tulane director of volleyball Sinisa Momic's student-athletes and staff convened for the first time on Friday
Aug. 9, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - With just three weeks before their first match of the season, the 2013 Tulane volleyball team reported to campus on Friday, attending meetings with director of volleyball Sinisa Momic and his new staff, along with other Tulane athletic department personnel.
Seven new freshmen, along with a redshirt sophomore transfer, joined the nine returning players for three hours of meetings with Momic and new assistant coaches Wayne Holly and Jaye Loyd and the new director of operations Nikki Osuna. Loyd has been with the program since the summer of 2011, but acted as the director of operations until moving into a coaching role earlier this year. Holly comes from Brown where he was an assistant coach during the last two seasons, while Osuna graduated from Tulane in 2012 after playing her final two collegiate seasons on the Uptown campus.
Athletic Director Rick Dickson, the training staff, the compliance staff and other dignitaries met with the volleyball program one day prior to their first practice. Tomorrow will begin a series of two-a-day practices that the squad will hold in the Hertz Center in preparation for the upcoming season.
"Personally, this is very rewarding for me," said Momic of the entire group being together for the first time. "I know how much time and work went into recruiting this class, and having all of the newcomers join the returnees and seeing them all together for the first time. On the other side, we have a new staff. It's exciting to realize that we are going to be getting started tomorrow. We went through our usual meetings today, but everything is set up to start working towards a successful season tomorrow."
The Green Wave boasts an incredibly deep and talented roster that is led by returning seniors Cori Martone, Milena Dragovic, Mel Mandelbaum and Azarri Badawi. Fellow seniors Elysa Jackson - who is returning after missing the 2012 season - and Amber Bennett will both be called upon in numerous situations throughout the season. Juniors Olivia Utt, Anna Wruck and Grace Weaver will also be asked to shoulder the load for the Greenies in 2013.
Many of the aforementioned players had incredible individual seasons in 2012, despite the team finishing only 6-21 overall and 4-12 in Conference USA play. Martone was named to the C-USA All-Second Team after the season for her efforts on the court. The Baton Rouge, La., native led the team in kills (336), kills per set (3.46), total attempts (896), service aces (25), service aces per set (0.26), points (389.5) and points per set (4.02). Her service aces per set were good enough for sixth place in the conference, while her kills per set were good enough for eighth place. Last month, she was the lone Greenie to earn Preseason Conference USA honors.
Mandelbaum was one of only two Greenies to play in all 109 sets last season. She led the team in assists with 758 and was third on the squad with 258 digs. Her digs per set average of 6.95 was 12th in Conference USA.
Utt was a blocking machine for her team last season, as her 101 total blocks - including 13 solo blocks - paced the team in 2012. The Atlanta native's clip of 0.94 blocks per set placed her tenth amongst her Conference USA counterparts.
Wruck and Weaver also posted solid seasons during their sophomore campaigns in 2012. Wruck - a middle blocker from Monmouth, Ore. - was 13th in Conference USA in hitting percentage, notching a .265. Weaver - an outside hitter and libero from Belton, Texas - was 15th in the league in digs per set with an average of 3.14.
While the team is fortunate enough to bring back its finest players from the 2012 season, the coaching staff will also benefit from the eight newcomers that have joined the team for the upcoming season after a season in which the Greenies had no recruits.
Miah Diirell (Everett, Wash.) and Annie Shurtz (Moraga, Calif.) signed letters of intent to join the Green Wave family in April after landing Ally Frank (Saskatoon, Canada), Tea Juric (Republic of Croatia) and Sarah Strasner (Houston, Texas) last November. The team also added Lauren Etta (Cold Spring, N.Y.) and Makenzie Frieden (Friendswood, Texas) as walk-ons while Amy Lanski comes to Tulane as a transfer from DePaul.
Many of the newcomers put together solid high school and club careers before coming to Tulane. Frank participated in the Canadian Indoor National Championships in four different years, and competed against the Chinese Junior National Team in Shanghai during her high school days. Shurtz won a state championship during her sophomore year at Campolindo High School, and also posted 500 kills during her senior season to earn her the Cal-High Sports Co-NCS Volleyball Player of the Year award. Strasner and Frieden were two of Texas' top high school players over the course of the last four years.
In addition those who just completed their prep careers, Lanski notched a fine freshman season at DePaul in 2011. While on the Chicago campus, she led the Blue Demons in kills with 271 while competing in 98 sets. Last year, she played in two sets before redshirting for the remainder of the season after having shoulder surgery.
"I think some of the problems we had before was not having the depth at many positions," added Momic. "We were unable to make substitutions that we needed, and we had to move some people into positions in which they were uncomfortable. I think a lot of those problems will be solved with this class. Most of them are freshman, except Amy (Lanksi). It will take time, but you can tell that their talent level is high. Our returners will bring a lot of experience from playing here for four years and playing sand volleyball (in the spring)," said Momic. "Combining their experience with the talent level of the new class will be a good thing."
Conference USA has gone through a bit of a shakeup over the last few months, as many of the Green Wave's former foes bolted for the American Athletic Conference in early July. Coinciding with that move was the addition of eight new schools - seven of which field volleyball programs. UTSA, North Texas and Middle Tennessee all figure to play a prominent role in the league during the 2013 campaign.
In addition to welcoming new players to their team and new teams to their conference, the Greenies will return to a sense of normalcy, as they will once again play their home matches at the Devlin Fieldhouse. Last year, while Devlin Fieldhouse was undergoing renovations, the Green Wave volleyball team played their home matches at the Hertz Center. After two phases of renovations, the Greenies are sure to be excited about returning to a venue in which they captured the 2008 conference regular title.
Tulane will open their season at home, as they play host to the Kathy Trosclair Memorial on Aug. 30 and 31 at Devlin Fieldhouse. The Greenies will square off against Mississippi Valley State at 7pm CT on Aug. 30 before playing a doubleheader the following day against Rider (10am CT) and Nicholls State (7pm CT).
For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE (9283). The Tulane Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center and is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For additional information, log onto the official website at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
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