Lady Barons look for another successful volleyball season

After watching his Brewton-Parker College volleyball team set a school record for victories last season, Lady Barons coach Jason Bryant is looking for successes with several award-winning returnees and a group of talented newcomers this fall.

"The 31-win team of 2002 set the bar high for all those who will follow," said Bryant, whose team opens its follow-up season in a tournament Friday and Saturday at Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C. "The goals for this team are as high as can be expected."

The Lady Barons' first full season in the Student Activities Center -- a facility they helped open in October 2002 -- begins Tuesday, Sept. 2, against Edward Waters College (Fla.) with a 6:30 p.m. match. Brewton-Parker also entertains Berry College on Sept. 6 at 2:30 p.m. and Wesleyan College on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.

"This team has the ability to play and play well," Bryant said. "We will be a little smaller in the middle and a little taller on the outside. With the additions that have been added with the returnees, I fully expect the highest level of play that we can produce night in and night out."

The returning Lady Barons include five players who earned postseason honors from the Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference -- three who received All-Conference player honors and two who were named to the GACC's All-Academic Team.

Senior setter Jeni Paul, a 5-foot-9 native of Woodstock, was a repeat selection to the All-GACC squad in 2002. The conference Freshman of the Year in 2000, Paul earned GACC and NAIA Region XIII Setter of the Week honors last fall.

KC Cheshire, a 6-0 junior from Marietta, also made the All-Conference list. Cheshire, an outside/middle hitter, was named the GACC's Player of the Week in late September last year.

Chrissy Murphy, a 5-10 sophomore outside hitter from Savannah, was the third straight Lady Baron to receive GACC Freshman of the Year honors.

Jaime Murrant, a 5-9 senior outside/middle hitter from Kelowna, British Columbia, made the GACC's All-Academic Team for a second straight year.

Amanda San U, a 5-8 junior defensive specialist from Watkinsville, also was a conference All-Academic selection.

Other returnees include Aislyn MacLeod, a 5-10 senior outside hitter from Kelowna, British Columbia. Nicole Behning, a 5-5 senior defensive specialist from Jacksonville, Fla., and Mindy Cooper, a 5-10 senior middle hitter from Lynchburg, Va., also return.

Two newcomers are transfers from St. Johns River Community College in northeast Florida: Shanti Cortese, a 5-9 junior setter-outside hitter from Tampa, Fla.; and Latika Thomas, a 5-9 junior outside hitter from Gainesville, Fla.

Jessica Ulin, a 5-11 sophomore middle hitter from Richmond Hill, was a red-shirt last season that has freshman eligibility.

Five freshmen also claim roster spots: Elizebeth Hindley, a 5-5 setter from Savannah; Kendall Jackson, a 5-9 outside hitter from Dalton; Jenifer Milburn, a 6-1 middle hitter from Brunswick; Jordan Romans, a 5-8 defensive specialist from Warner Robins; and Debbie Sooter, a 5-8 outside hitter from Meridian, Ind.

"Through two weeks of practice, this team seems to be more in sync with the same goals than any other team I have had," Bryant said. "But that will be tested as the season progresses.

"I think the attitudes on this team, so far, are less concentrated on individual success and more on the team's success. If this stays the focal point, I look for this team to be good."

The Lady Barons begin play in the Voorhees Tournament on Friday against NCAA Division II Fort Valley State University and also play Voorhees on Friday before taking on Morris College (S.C.) and Paine College on Saturday.

"The best team any of my volleyball teams have played against was the 2001 version of Fort Valley State, so I expect this to be a great challenge for us as the season kicks off," Bryant said.

The Lady Barons begin GACC play Sept. 12 with a trip to Montgomery, Ala., to face Faulkner University. After playing three GACC matches on the road, Brewton-Parker's first home conference match is Sept. 23 against Shorter College.

The conference season culminates Nov. 13-14 with the GACC postseason tournament in the Student Activities Center.

"We play in a great conference, so the season will be difficult," Bryant said. "But if we stay together and stayed focused again, I think we can be pretty good."