There were a handful of games in September 2014 in which the Elon University volleyball team dressed eight or fewer players.
Not exactly a recipe for success.
It also shouldn’t be a problem for this year’s Phoenix.
With six new additions — including Michigan State University transfer junior and outside hitter Ebony Scott — Elon has a full roster and won’t see too many empty seats on the bench for games this year.
There really isn’t anywhere to go but up for Elon after a 6-26 season and 1-15 mark in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play. It always seemed as if the Phoenix competed well with its CAA foes, but would come up a play or two short down the stretch. Elon just didn’t have enough in the tank to close things out.
It isn’t crazy to think fatigue played a factor, in addition to the heightened level of competition in the CAA. The Phoenix didn’t play poorly, but rather couldn’t keep up with its opponent.
Seven players missed time because of injuries last year, plus another left the team midway through the year, leading to some reshuffling of the lineup and players playing out of position.
Elon shouldn’t need to do that much, if at all, this season. Every position is solidly stacked, and there’s talent returning at each of them.
There’s sophomore Sydel Curry and senior Ana Nicksic at setter and junior Morgan Maner on defense. Senior Catherine Head and junior Ally Karle will command the middle, and senior Megan Gravley and sophomore Sydney Busa will once again be forces on the outside.
Really, Elon possesses a solid mix of veterans and newcomers. But the Phoenix will need the incoming freshmen and transfer to play important roles. Maybe not all of them, but at least a few.
Scott, an outside hitter, is perhaps the most intriguing of them. After redshirting her freshman year at Michigan State, she played in eight matches the next year and four last year. She’s never recorded more than two kills in a match at the collegiate level.
There’s a great deal of unknown there, but she was on scholarship at Michigan State, a school in the Big Ten Conference, the nation’s best for volleyball. That says something in itself.
In addition to Scott, Elon adds two defensive specialists, a setter, a middle blocker and an outside hitter. No position was overlooked in recruiting.
And with players returning at each position, there’s potential for some easy transitions.
Similar to last year, Elon’s greatest challenge will come in CAA play. It took the Phoenix 11 tries to win a conference game last year, and that five-set victory over College of William & Mary became its only CAA win.
It won’t be any easier this time around, but the year of experience should help to some regard.
And having a full bench won’t hurt, either.