By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations
Fourth-year Brewton-Parker College volleyball coach Jason Bryant looks for the Lady Barons to continue their upward climb following a 19-17 campaign last fall.
The Lady Barons will begin the regular season with action in the Agnes Scott College Classic on Friday and Saturday (Aug. 30 and 31) in Decatur, Ga. They then visit Toccoa Falls College on Sept 3 before opening their home schedule Sept. 5 against Paine College at Parker Gymnasium.
"We have a lot of higher expectations than ever before, coming off 19 wins," said Bryant, who has just two new players added to a junior-laden squad. "This is the best feeling going into a season I've had here."
Junior setter Jenni Paul of Woodstock, Ga., and junior outside hitter Aislyn Macleod of Kelowna, British Columbia, return after garnering All-Conference honors last fall from the Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference.
Paul, who was the GACC's Freshman of the Year in 2000, last season led the Lady Barons with 660 assists for a 5.69-per-game average and had a team-high 70 service aces.
McLeod had 241 digs, averaging 2.30 per game, just behind returning senior Alissa Vogt's 263 (2.77 average). Vogt, like McLeod, is an outside hitter from Kelowna, British Columbia, and she earned All-Conference honors as a sophomore in 2000.
Bryant said McLeod and Vogt are battling for playing time at the two outside hitter spots with freshman Chrissy Murphy of Savannah, Ga.
Sophomore middle hitter Melissa Brown, also of Kelowna, British Columbia, was the GACC Freshman of the Year last season after recording a team-high 160 blocked shots (112 solos, 48 assists, averaging 1.38 per game) that placed her second in the conference. Brown also was third in the GACC in hitting percentage (.273) and points scored (116.5 total, 4.02 game average).
Bryant looks to rotate in junior Christian Walsh of Bluntstown, Fla., and junior Jaime Murrant of Kelowna, British Columbia, as the other middle hitter, although he said Murrant could fill any position if needed.
Either junior Mindy Cooper of Lynchburg, Va., who Bryant said is much improved, or sophomore K.C. Cheshire of Marietta, Ga., will fill the offside front-row position.
Bryant also referred to freshman middle hitter Jessica Ulin as a bright spot who blocks very well. However, because of the Lady Barons' depth in the middle, Bryant said he may red-shirt Ulin for next season.
Four players look to join Paul on the back row as the off-side and middle back hitters: senior Lyndsey Gomme of Kelowna, British Columbia; junior Nicole Behning of Orange Park, Fla; sophomore Amanda San U of Watkinsville, Ga.; and freshman Crystal Walsh of Bluntstown, Fla., who sat out last season.
"The good thing is we have depth at any position," Bryant said. "The battle has to be won at practice. We're still young, but we have a good mixture."
The tough, balanced GACC schedule left the Lady Barons with just a 1-7 conference record, but they scored a match win in the league tournament before they were eliminated.
"Putting it together in this conference is a whole different world," Bryant said.
The home opener is the only home date for the Lady Barons in September, a situation Bryant hopes will allow BPC's new Student Activities Center to be ready for the spikers' Oct. 1 home date against Wesleyan College.
"We're looking forward to that," Bryant said of playing in the new center. "The girls' moods, hopes and spirits will be up."