Volleyball Preview: Bucs look forward to 2017 season opener this weekend

Volleyball Preview: Bucs look forward to 2017 season opener this weekend

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Head Coach Christy Mooberry and the Buccaneers' volleyball team opens up the 2017 season this weekend at the Catamount Volleyball Classic hosted by Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C. on August 25-26. The CSU Sports Information Department looks at the Buccaneer volleyball team heading into the season and talked with Coach Mooberry to preview the 2017 squad.

Position Breakdown
Outside/Right Side Hitter: Logan Windsor, Addison Kaderli, Siraya Windsor, Hannah Western, Brooke Monssen, Deona Mims, Madison Malloch

Middle Blocker: Kalysia Bates, Kylie Klein, Caitlyn Michalski

Setter: Rachel Smith, Naiomi Rivera

Libero/Defensive Specialists: Madison Martin, Macey LaPorte, Skylar Blackmon

Things to Watch from the CSU Volleyball Team
National Leader
Charleston Southern returns one of the nation's top defensive specialists in the nation this season as junior libero Madison Martin returns to the floor. CSU led the NCAA in total team digs last season with 2,304, helped in large part by their back line leader. Martin finished fifth overall in the NCAA and shattered the Bucs' single season record with 665 digs on her way to earning All-Conference honors in 2016 and preseason All-Big South recognition in 2017. The Birmingham, Mich. native enters the 2017 season 66 digs shy of 1,000 for her career.

Sophomore utility player and service specialist Macey LaPorte returns and will see time on the back line. The Charleston native also finished among the CSU leaders with 30 service aces last season. Freshman Skylar Blackmon is also expected to see time on the Bucs' back line in 2017.

"While we left off in a good spot defensively last year, we set our goals even higher this year," Mooberry said. "We're focusing a lot on being more disciplined on defense, more aggressive in our movements and being more comfortable playing balls outside of our midline. I think you'll see a big jump not just in Madi's performance, but in the whole team's defensive performance. Macey has also come a long way over the spring season and the addition of Skylar will be significant as well."

Spotting Up from Outside
The Buccaneers are loaded outside heading into the 2017 season as CSU returns their top three hitters from the 2016 season including All-Freshman selection Brooke Monssen. Monssen earned All-Freshman honors after finishing among the conference leaders in kills (2.58 kps) and blocks (0.98 bps). Also returning is the Bucs' leading hitter, junior outside Addison Kaderli. The Austin, Texas native led CSU with 2.68 kills per set and added 10 double-doubles on the year. Fellow junior Hannah Western was arguably one of the best all-around players for CSU in 2016 finishing fourth on the team in kills and third in total digs.

CSU also returns the services of sophomore Logan Windsor who made strides after earning five starts and playing in 44 sets in her freshman campaign. Also expected to compete for playing time outside includes freshmen Deona Mims and redshirt freshman Madison Malloch.

"We're getting stronger overall with our pins and we know we need to focus on our ability to terminate the ball," Mooberry commented. "We've made some adjustments to some of the positions and keep pushing to raise the standard. I expect to see solid performances and growth as the season continues."

Block Party
The reigning Big South Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Kylie Klein returns for her senior season in the middle of the Buccaneers' lineup after pacing CSU and finishing second in the conference in total blocks. Klein averaged 0.99 blocks per set on her way to racking up 127 on the season to pace CSU in the middle as the Bucs finished 41st in the NCAA in team total blocks on the season. Klein also finished third on the team with 216 kills, providing an offensive weapon in the CSU rotation.

"Kylie is an experienced returner and especially with reading, that level of experience is really valuable," Mooberry said. "She's super competitive, so I'm excited to see how she finishes her career. 

Joining her in the middle will be returning middle blocker Caitlyn Michalski, as well as incoming freshman Kalysia Bates. Michalski finished fourth on the team in total blocks last season, including a 10-block match against Jacksonville State last season on September 2. Bates averaged 10 kills, four blocks, four aces and one dig per set over her high school career where she was a two-time selection to the AHSAA 7A Area 4 All-Area Team and a two-time Alabama All-Star.

"We've been playing around with Cait's block both in the middle and right side and she's got one of the fastest arms on the team," Mooberry continued. "Kalysia has come in as a strong middle; I expect her to compete right away and I'm excited about her growth as she adjusts to the college game. We've already seen huge strides in her ability just from a few weeks of preseason."

Setting Up for Success
Sophomore setter Rachel Smith earned All-Freshman honors on her way to finishing fourth in the Big South in assists and assists per set in the 2016 season. The Euclid, Ohio native recorded a season-high 49 assists on October 11 at UNC Asheville during a stretch that saw her record 40-plus assists on five different occasions.

Naiomi Rivera also returns to provide depth and experience for the Bucs after finishing second on the team after averaging 5.20 assists per set. She added a season-high 40 assists against Gardner-Webb this season and provides an additional look to the CSU lineup in the 2017 season. Libero Madison Martin could also see time at the setter position this season.

"Rachel works extremely hard and leads the court well," Mooberry said. "I'm excited to see how she does as we give her a few more options to work with on the court.  Naiomi came in this summer looking stronger and more consistent, so that opens the possibility of running a 6-2 and using some more of our hitters and putting up a stronger block.  I'll be excited to see how our offense progresses through the season and as we grow."

Player Profile – Madison Martin
The awards and accolades piled up for junior libero Madison Martin last season as the Birmingham, Mich. native finished among the national leaders in digs and digs per set in the 2016 season. Martin earned First Team All-Conference honors last year after setting a CSU single season record with 665 digs and 5.04 digs per set. Martin also finished second in the Big South in total service aces with 46 after setting the CSU single match record with seven aces on October 11 at UNC Asheville. She earned Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors twice and recorded four of the Big South's nine 30-plus dig matches in 2016. Martin also tied the CSU single match record with 36 digs in the Bucs' four-set win over Radford.

Coach's Comments
"I'm excited to be a part of what this team is capable of, to be a platform for growth for them, both on the court and off.  I look forward to the joy of seeing these athletes earning success, seeing them realize their growth, and realizing we can overcome a lot when we stay focused on being a great teammate and finding solutions.  I want them to possess a level of confidence when they're done that they can handle whatever challenges life brings their way and to always see the value in being invested in those around you. It's about the game and yet so much more than just the game." – Mooberry on the Bucs heading into the 2017 season.

Key Numbers
Madison Martin set the CSU single season mark for digs in the 2016 season in her first season as the Bucs' libero. Martin also set the Bucs' single match record (36) and led the conference with 5.04 digs per set on the season.

4 – The CSU Volleyball team was in the top 15 in the NCAA in four different team categories in the 2016 season. The Bucs led the NCAA with 2,304 digs, finished fifth in total attacks (4,883), 14th in digs per set (17.45) and 15th in service aces (188).

Up Next
CSU opens the 2017 season this weekend at the Catamount Volleyball Classic hosted by Western Carolina. First serve against the host Catamounts is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN3.

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