Aug. 18, 2006
NEW ORLEANS, La. - The Tulane University volleyball team wrapped up week one of preseason practice on Friday, and according to second-year head coach Liz Kritza, the team has made "significant progress."
With five starters among the seven returning letterwinners from last year's squad - including Sara Radosevic, who earned AVCA All-America honors and was named Conference USA, AVCA Midwest Region and Louisiana Freshman of the Year, and C-USA All-Freshman Team honoree Luna Rebrovic - Kritza has been able to do more instruction on strategy and game-planning then a year ago when seven true freshmen dotted the Green Wave roster.
"We still have a very young team, and in that case, you usually have an inexperienced team," Kritza said. "Last year's freshmen played a lot and got better as the season went on.
"It's comforting knowing that the core of this year's team will be here for at least two more years. When you factor in the experience of our returning players and the talent and potential of our freshman, I am very excited about the direction the program is heading."
After playing all but one of its matches away from home in 2005, the Tulane team is happy to be back in New Orleans as the city and University rebounds from Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf Coast Region when it made landfall last Aug. 29.
The lessons learned after being relocated to College Station, Texas, and the campus of Texas A&M University helped the team bond and learn the true meaning of teamwork. The 2005 team lost nearly three weeks of competition in the non-conference portion of its schedule, and finished the regular season 3-15.
The record was not indicative of the Green Wave's play, however, as the team showed steady progress from late September through early November. In the C-USA Tournament, Tulane put it all together and defeated host Rice and third-seeded Tulsa in the first two days of the tournament before bowing out to league runner-up Houston in the semifinals.
"They are all making significant progress, and I am pleased with the overall conditioning of the team," Kritza said. "But there is always room for improvement, and we will continue to work hard not only on our volleyball skills but our conditioning as well. It's a long season, and the teams that are in top physical condition are the ones that are going to win those tough, five-game matches."
The Green Wave have been running through two practice a day for most of the last week, and the team has pushed through each one without letting the fatigue factor become an issue. Radosevic continues to be one of the team's most dynamic offensive players, but fellow sophomore Bridget Wells has upped her game since the 2005. In addition, true freshmen Rachel Lindelow, Jenn Miller and Ksenija Vlaskovic have picked up the pace of the college game quite rapidly.
"By conducting two practices a day nearly every day, it's only natural for fatigue to set in," Kritza said. "But this group is determined to improve. Players who report to preseason camp in shape have an advantage because they can focus on developing their volleyball skills rather then the general aerobic conditioning."
The Green Wave open the 2006 season on Friday, Aug. 25, when they host the annual Kathy Trosclair Memorial Tournament. Tulane will take on Lamar in the season opener on Friday at 7:30 p.m. before battling McNeese State and cross-town foe UNO at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., respectively.