Blue Raider Volleyball Spending Summer Preparing for Fall

June 16, 2006 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee volleyball squad can't wait for August. Wishing away the summer may seem like blasphemy to some, but for the Blue Raider volleyball team, it equates to unfinished business that dates back to the 2005 season.

The Blue Raiders were just one kill, one dig, one attack away from claiming its first Sun Belt Conference Tournament title. The storybook season ended one page shy of a happy ending as Middle Tennessee fell to rival Western Kentucky 3-2 on its home court in front of a record-setting crowd of 1,028. Adding insult to injury, Middle Tennessee was snubbed out of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, even though the squad amassed a record of 28-4, with three of their losses coming to Western Kentucky.

"I think after we didn't make the NCAA Tournament, it really re-focused the team," said Head Coach Matt Peck. "We realized nothing was guaranteed and the best way to assure a trip to the NCAA Tournament was to win the Sun Belt Championship."

Middle Tennessee's focus to succeed could be seen in the tournaments in which the Blue Raiders participated during the spring of 2006. The Blue Raiders closed out the spring portion of their schedule by shocking Tennessee, a 2005 NCAA Final Four participant, 3-0 at the Lady Vol Tournament. Middle Tennessee ended the spring portion of its season 8-0 including going a perfect 5-0 record over Southeastern Conference opponents (Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, and UT).

"The success in the spring was huge for us," Peck said. "We played extremely well, and beating a very good Tennessee team was great for our confidence level."

Nine Blue Raider players are on campus this June taking classes and working out. The whole squad, including the Middle Tennessee newcomers, will be on campus in July.

"I think the players being here over the summer is a good sign, because it shows they are dedicated to doing whatever they need to do to have a successful season in 2006," Peck said. "It is a huge bonus to have everyone here over the summer."

Middle Tennessee's depth could be a thing of envy. The Blue Raiders lost just one senior and return everyone else that was on the squad that made a run at the Sun Belt Tournament title.

Seniors Andressa Lyra and Megan Sumrell lead the squad. Lyra became the first-ever All-American for the Blue Raiders as she earned Honorable Mention accolades in 2005. Sumrell became the all-time leader in assists at Middle Tennessee with 3,533.

Junior Alicia Leamu'u earned Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year for her stellar record. Her 574 digs in 2005 broke her school record for digs in a season.

A highlight of the season was the performances of Ashley Adams. The southpaw was a force in the outside hitter position and her play earned her AVCA National Player of the Week honors. Adams became the first Blue Raider and just the second Sun Belt player to garner this award.

Peck is also bringing in a stellar class of recruits that will be a crucial part of the Blue Raider's success in 2006.

Newcomer Jessica Robinson joined the squad in the spring of 2006. She comes to the Blue Raiders from the University of North Alabama where she logged 250 blocks.

Leslie Clark, a 6-0 setter, was named Kansas High School Player of the Year. Ashley Mead was selected Georgia A/AA Player of the Year and was also voted Atlanta Journal Constitution Metro Atlanta Player of the Year. Savannah Pegg was chosen the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year. Late signee Sasha McGlotin may be a huge find for the Blue Raiders to close out the 2006 roster, as she is a 6-1 middle blocker from Abilene, Texas.

"I am very happy with the depth we will have this season," Peck said. "It will be the first time we can go three to four players deep in every position."

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