By MATTHEW ROLISON
UT’s women’s volleyball team enters this season picked to finish second in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC). While being ranked 17th nationally in the Division II preseason poll, UT has their minds set on taking first place this year in the SSC. Finishing in second place last year, this prediction takes a jab at the team growth and development. Can UT prove that they are the best team in the SSC this year?
The Spartans started off the year with two exhibition home games, winning both. Their first win came against Webber International, by a score of 4-0. The Spartans then went on to take care of business against Warner, by a score of 3-1. Kasey Reynolds, a defensive specialist (DS) and libero (LB) for the team, in year five of her academic and athletic career here at UT, a first-year Graduate student in the Masters
of Business Administration (MBA), weighs in on the team’s prediction to finish second and her goals for this season.
“We are not ecstatic about being predicted to finish second in the SSC, as first place is always our goal,” Reynolds said. “We do realize the level of play has majorly increased over the past couple years. Every night on the court is a battle. There is no room to have a bad night in our league because you’ll most likely get beat.”
Reynolds also touched on the rich history of Spartans volleyball.
“Tampa has a long tradition of SSC titles, so we are pushing more than ever to live up to our name and those who have come before us,” Reynolds said.
The Spartans have remained at the top of the standings for most of their history, according to the Tampa Spartans website. The last time the UT volleyball team struggled to put anything together was in 1995, when they went 22-17 on the season.
Last year, the volleyball team finished with a strong 23-9 record. That was good for second, behind new provisional team Palm Beach Atlantic, who went 32-4. Conference wise, UT went 12-4, tying with Saint Leo for best in the conference. With Palm Beach Atlantic a provisional member of the SSC for at least two more seasons, the team will continue to be the biggest threat to UT.
The Spartans matched up against Palm Beach Atlantic twice last season and lost both appearances. The first match finished with a score of 3-1, while the second was not as close, UT falling 3-0. Even though UT had the better record, they still fell in both meetings with Saint Leo. The first loss came with a score of 3-1, the next following suit with a score of 3-1 as well.
Head coach Chris Catanach said on his expectations for the team, “[They need] to give maximum effort and be entertaining to watch.” Education wise, he said, “I want us to achieve a 3.4 team GPA and be good role models on and off campus.”
The Spartans have a lot of young talent this year on the roster, according to head coach Catanach. While young talent can benefit a team, it can cause some problems early on like chemistry and experience. When asked if there is any one team in particular that worries the team, Catanach said, “All of the teams worry us. We are starting mostly freshman and sophomores. We are very inexperienced.”
This year’s team has a total of four freshman and six sophomores. The veteran upperclassmen will be relied on heavily to be mentors to the younger core of players.
Reynolds knows that the team is filled with young, raw talent, she said. But she also knows how much potential they all hold.
“Our team is still fairly young, but we have the drive to be the best,” Reynolds said. “We want to win that title at the end of the season in hopes to host regionals, however we have a lot of work to do to get to that point.”
Matthew Rolison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org