Elon University’s volleyball team started their season last week with some new faces on the court.
The team welcomes six new players to the squad, replacing the six players they lost from last year. The new class of signees features middle blocker Courtney Carpenter, outside hitter Julia Crabtree, middle blocker Natalie Cummins, setter Kodi Garcia, outside hitter Madi Genaway and defensive specialist Bella Seman.
“We’ve definitely seen players step up,” head coach Mary Tendler said. “They’ve done a great job. They’re very organized. I’m really proud of their efforts there. We have some underclassmen stepping up and taking charge. We have leaders at each position.”
The team got off to a hot start, winning two of their first three matches at the Charlotte Invitational. The Phoenix defeated Southern Utah Unversity 3-1, lost to Belmont University 0-3 and beat the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in a tight match 3-2.
“We had a strong opening weekend, which built a positive team mentality,” said senior captain Sydney Busa. “Getting to play in matches for the first time exposed some things that we did really well, and others that we need to work on. Going forward, we are excited to continue to push ourselves and to compete every day in practice and compete on match days.”
The volleyball schedule features 14 home matches inside Alumni Gym in its 46th and final year hosting the program. Beginning next season, the team will play their matches in the Schar Center, a 5,400 seat convocation center currently under construction next to Hunt Softball Park.
The team comes off an 18-15 record last season. The Phoenix struggled in Colonial Athletic Association games, only winning four of the 16 in-conference games.
Elon’s schedule includes four tournaments between Aug. 25 and Sept.16. The maroon and gold will host the Phoenix Classic Sept. 8-9, but will not open up conference play until later in the month.
“We’re always looking forward to conference play,” Tendler said. “We look forward to that first weekend.”
The first in-conference weekend will feature four home matches for the Phoenix. Opponents include Towson University, Delaware University, James Madison University and William & Mary University before the team takes to the road to face Hofstra University and Northeastern University.
“We were close with a lot of the CAA teams last year,” Tendler said. “Getting a chance to play them again is something they’re looking forward to. The players will be very motivated for those.”
Once conference play commences, the Phoenix welcomes all eight CAA rivals to Alumni Gym and will travel to all eight schools during the 16-match in-conference schedule. The team will head to the CAA tournament after regular season play concludes, which will be contested at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia after the Dukes won the tournament last year.
This is head coach Mary Tendler’s 15th season with the Phoenix. She enters this season with a career record of 216-239 (.475). Tendler said that her team is confident and ready for the rest of the season.
I think we’re an aggressive team,” she said. “We take some big swings and are very aggressive with the ball so we should be fun to watch. We’ll have a different look, but it’s kind of exciting in a way.”
The team is captained by senior outside hitter Sydney Busa and senior middle blocker Michelle Klein. The two are the only seniors on the team and will have to use their experience to lead the Phoenix as two of the three returning starters for the team.
Busa was named a Preseason All-CAA honorable mention for the second time in her career in August. This follows her Third Team All-CAA recognition at the end of last season after playing 108 sets across 30 matches and making 22 starts during the 2016 season. She finished the year with an impressive 305 kills, 293 digs and 43 blocks.
Klein played in 31 of Elon’s 33 matches last season, and started in 30 of them. She ended the season with 213 kills, 109 blocks and 60 digs, capturing a CAA Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 12, 2016.
“It is nice to see the leadership,” Tendler said. “It’s nice to see the different personalities come out of the players. We had a productive spring season and that rolled out onto our preseason.”
“This season I'm most excited to make a statement in the CAA,” Busa said. The Phoenix will look to improve upon 18 wins from last season as the 2017 year continues. “After playing in this conference for three years, we have a good understanding of the teams and the competition. We have our goal set for what we want to accomplish, and everyone has bought into it, working hard each day to better themselves and better the team.”