Blue Raiders preseason camp ends

Team will host season opening tourney Aug. 29-30

August 22, 2008 · MT Athletic Communication
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee will round out its preseason camp over the weekend before classes begin on Monday.

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Middle Tennessee has been preparing for the 2008 season the past two weeks and there have been no injuries during the process.

"I'm pretty pleased. The best thing of all is we don't have anyone hurt and everyone came into camp in great shape. Of course part of that is because they are here all summer working with strength and conditioning. The team is as absolutely physically strong as they can be especially the returners, who have been working hard in the weight room pretty much since January. It is showing in our play as they are hitting the ball harder and are more of a physical presence at net, even more than last year, so that is great," head coach Matt Peck said.

There are seven newcomers to the team in 2008 including three from the state of Tennessee. Junior Lauren Britton, who transferred from Central Arkansas, is a native of Murfreesboro. Junior Janay Yancey, a native of Columbia, Tenn., joins the team after playing two seasons for N.C. State. Freshman Kim Bell rounds out the group as she hails from Germantown, Tenn.

"We are still working on some team chemistry issues but we do have seven newcomers. They are not exactly sure where they are sometimes and who is next to who. We have been moving them around a lot with one freshman playing middle and right and another playing left and right," Peck said. "We also have a freshman setter and another new middle so we are just working out some of those chemistry issues. On a scale of one to 10 I think we are at an eight-plus right now. I am very happy with where we are right now headed into the season next week."

There are a number of changes to the collegiate volleyball game in 2008 including starting the season a week later.

"Last year at this time we were getting ready to play but since the season starts a week later we have another week of practice. We are in a really good position. We are going to have a different look next year no question. Our offense is going to be different; we have people playing different positions than they did last year. We are going to have a new look," Peck said.

In addition to the late start of the season, there are a few other changes. Instead of matches being composed of "games" it will be "sets". Teams will play to 25 points per set instead of 30 and the number of substitutions has been cut of 15 to 12.

"The first couple of weekends are going to be a good test of working out the chemistry issues. It is going to be fun and I think we are going to be surprised at some of the changes we are making and some things we are doing to get ready for our opponents next week," Peck said. "I like it very much. They are challenging each other at virtually every single position and that is great. It makes your team better." Three players in particular have impressed the coaches during preseason camp. Junior Ashley Mead, sophomore Izabela Kozon and Tosin Elebute have all performed very well at the net during the intense sessions.

"Ashley Mead, Izabela Kozon and Tosin Elebute have all been doing outstanding outside. Last year, outside was a little bit of a concern for us. We had a freshman and a sophomore. Now our sophomore is and experience junior and our freshman is a very experienced sophomore," Peck said. "Tosin has been doing extremely well. She is hitting a very heavy ball and scoring a lot so we are very pleased with the outside position."

There has also been a lot of competition during practice between the middle blockers with the addition of Janay Yancey.

"We have both of our middle's back and we added Janay Yancey who is a very tremendous athlete coming from N.C. State. We are very athletic and are able to challenge each other better in practice than we have in the past," Peck said. "The players we have are all very capable both physically and as volleyball players so it is making our team better because our practices a very competitive."

The Blue Raiders are using preseason camp as a way to make sure they are in the best playing form possible when the season begins on Aug. 29.

"It is really interesting for us since we have another week than we did last year. A number of coaches told me last year the first weekend that we looked like we were in mid-season form and I think this year will be even better for us," Peck said.

Middle Tennessee will face 2007 tournament teams Duke, Iowa State, Lipscomb, Ohio, South Dakota State, Western Kentucky and Xavier. The squad's opponents this season have a 55 percent winning percentage and 11 had more than 20 wins last season.

"We have a great schedule we are playing seven teams who made the NCAA tournament and are playing a regional team here in Iowa State. Also the RPI of the teams we are playing out of conference is the lowest out of all the conference schools. We have some tough competition but I really like that we are playing at home our first two weekends and playing tournament tested teams," Peck said. "This is only going to help us be a better team. I really like that this year we are more balanced and I think we are going to have some pleasant surprises from people the first couple of weekends."

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