FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University women’s volleyball team will open its 2011 campaign by playing host to its own FMU Invitational Tournament this weekend.
The six-team event will run from 9 a.m. through approximately 9 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday (Sept. 2-3) in the Smith University Center. Admission is free.
On Friday, FMU will play Belmont Abbey College at 1 p.m. and Newberry College at 5 p.m., while on Saturday the Patriots will meet Erskine College at 9 a.m. and Carson-Newman College at 5 p.m.
The remainder of Friday’s tournament schedule consists of: Carson-Newman vs. Belmont Abbey at 9 a.m., Newberry vs. Erskine at 11 a.m., UNC Pembroke vs. Carson-Newman at 3 p.m., and UNC Pembroke vs. Erskine at 7 p.m.
In addition to FMU’s matches on Saturday: Newberry plays Belmont Abbey at 11 a.m., Erskine meets Carson-Newman at 1 p.m., Newberry plays UNCP at 3 p.m., and Belmont Abbey faces UNCP at 7 p.m.
Sixth-year head coach Paul MacDonald welcomes back eight letterwinners, including six players who started on a regular basis, from last season’s 15-16 squad. However, the Patriots lost two All-Conference performers, including libero Kelsie Deaton who finished fourth on the Peach Belt Conference’s career digs list with 1886.
“We are looking forward to getting the season started,” MacDonald said. “The players are ready to put on the jerseys after two weeks of pre-season practice.”
Leading the returnees are sophomore setter Nicole Bennett, senior middleblocker Danielle Parker, and senior outside hitters Ashlee Crook and Amanda Mitchell. As a freshman, Bennett led the PBC in service aces per game (0.52) and ranked second in assists per game (9.69). Senior defensive specialist Hallie Legg also returns.
Parker tallied 79 blocks (second on team) and 168 kills with a .189 attack percentage last year, while Mitchell was third on the team with 208 kills and third with 62 total blocks. Crook averaged 2.11 kills and 2.85 digs per game last season. Legg was second on the team in 2010 with 283 digs (2.55 per set) and fifth with 15 service aces, while posting a serve receive percentage of .937 covering nearly 350 receptions.
Four freshmen join the roster for the 2011 campaign: 6-0 middleblocker Alex Matz (Louisville, Ky.), 5-6 defensive specialist Meghan Peji (Virginia Beach, Va.), 5-10 middleblocker and outside hitter Erin Porter (Woodbridge, Va.), and 6-0 setter Sloane Shank (Fayetteville, N.C.).
“The seniors have done a good job in bring along the freshmen and showing them what the culture should be as far as energy and effort on the court. We have first-year players in four different positions, but across the board we have experienced players in those roles to bring them along.
“Our senior class will be the key to our success in 2011. We are also looking for big things from Nicole in the setter’s role.”
Other returnees include junior outside hitter Liz Drewry, sophomore middleblocker Megan Mooney, and sophomore outside hitter Paige Perreault.
The 2011 schedule includes two in-season tournaments, a match at Division I The Citadel, and the PBC Tournament, which will be hosted in Augusta, Ga.
Both Legg and Mitchell were named to the 2010 PBC Volleyball All-Academic Team, while Drewry, garnered honorable mention recognition.