Aug. 5, 2004
Returning 10 letterwinners from last season’s Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champion and NCAA Elite Eight finalist, Georgia Tech’s volleyball team begins preparations for the 2004 season with its first practice Saturday in O’Keefe Gymnasium. The Yellow Jackets, who finished the 2003 season ranked No. 8 in the final USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll, return six starters to a team which posted a school-record 34 wins in 2003.
Tech welcomes back all-American seniors Lynnette Moster (Liberty, Ind.) and Lauren Sauer (Huntsville, Ala.) as well Marisa Aston (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Jayme Gergen (Topeka, Kansas) and Laura Kuhn (Tiffin, Ohio) along with junior Jennifer Randall (Long Beach, Calif.) while adding setter Lindsey Laband (Aurora, Colo.) to its starting lineup.
“We are very excited about our upcoming season and getting this year’s team in the gym,” said head coach Bond Shymansky, who enters his third year at the helm of the Jackets. “There’s always a great deal of anticipation amongst the team and people are excited to see how we are going to be this year and how well we are going to play. I think the most exciting part for us as a staff is coming into this year and knowing we are going to have some new faces on the court and new adjustments that we are going to need to make. Unlike last year, we are going to have to discover what our team is going to be instead of knowing what are team was already going to be. I think that process is going to be enjoyable for our coaching staff and our team.”
In addition to the 10 returning letterwinners, Tech will add three freshman and a sophomore in outside hitter Lindsey Gray (Lenexa, Kansas), middle blockers Nikki Kaminskas (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Ulrike Stegemann (Schwerin, Germany) and Ashley Guerrant (East Lansing, Mich.), who is also a member of the women’s basketball team.
“I think anytime you put new players into a team system it makes everybody work harder,” said Shymansky. “Lindsey Gray has a great deal of ball control and reminds us a lot of a young Lynnette Moster. Ulrike brings that international style of play and I know we’ll get a lot of power and speed from her. Nikki and Ashley both bring a lot of size to our front row and height is something that you can never get enough of in volleyball.”
The Yellow Jackets will practice for nine days prior to the start of the fall semester. The regular season begins Aug. 27 when Tech faces defending national champion Southern California followed by a matchup against Minnesota or Colorado State at the prestigious NACWAA Classic held in Ft. Collins, Colo. The 2004 schedule is highlighted with eight matches against teams that participated in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, including home matches against Ohio State and matches at Wisconsin, Maryland and North Carolina.
“Our biggest goal this preseason will be to figure out who our new middle is going to be and to get our system running as a well-oiled machine and that is tough to do early on but it’s going to be important to us,” said Shymansky. “Lindsey did a super job in the spring season emerging as our starting setter and got some great experience in matches against some good opponents and gained confidence in leading our team that with so many returning starters we really feel like we can get start at an advanced level offensively and defensively with things right away. Overall, our season expectations are to make sure that we continue to improve during the course of the year and to be a heck of a lot better at the end of the year then we are at the start of the year.”