Banner Elk, NC--Coach Jamie Petrik, along with assistant Megan Wargo, enters his third year at Lees-McRae with ten new players and only two returners for the 2008 men's volleyball team. Although the team is young, the coaches and players are excited about being a part of the beginning of a new era at Lees-McRae and hope to surpass last year's 5-7 record. The youthful Bobcats will look to combine their club and USA Volleyball experiences into a team that competes together to overcome the disadvantages of collegiate inexperience.
The lone returning starter from last year's team, 6'5 Grant Cassell (Mt. Vernon, OH) will resume his position as middle blocker for the Bobcats. As the second leading hitter on the team last year, Cassell's skill and knowledge will be relied on heavily by the youthful Bobcat team. As co-captain his leadership has been revealed through his demonstration of discipline and steady play during preseason.
Looking to start in the other middle blocker position is junior transfer, Ryan Black (Escondido, CA). The 6'7 player, who attended Palomar Community College the past two seasons, is expected to be an impact player for the Bobcats. Black has not only improved greatly but also has shown a positive team attitude throughout the preseason training. Off the court, Black spends many hours volunteering for the Banner Elk Fire Department in preparation for his career as a fire fighter.
Expected to start in the setter position for the Bobcats is 6'2 freshman Josh Shea from Las Vegas, NV. Shea was one of ten players selected to the 2006-07 High School Senior All America Team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His training and experience with national level coaches will add an entirely different element to the Bobcat offense. Shea, with his high vertical, is also an exceptional blocker.
Freshman Juan Ramirez will be called on to fill in at the setter /defensive specialist position. The 5'10 native of Miami, FL will add intelligent court play and a solid serve to the Bobcat team. He is one of three players battling out for the starting libero position.
Two more freshmen, 6'3 Colin Kelly and 6'2 Shane Holderby are slated to start as outside hitters for the 2008 Bobcat Team. Kelly (Orlando, FL) played for the East Coast Tournament Championship winners Orlando Gold last year. An intelligent player, his decision making on outside attacks will assist the Bobcats in siding out and scoring points. Holderby (Virginia Beach, VA) brings court charisma along with solid, all-around volleyball skills in every aspect of the game.
Other outside hitters will be 6'0 Jeremy Evans from Raleigh, NC and 6'0 Robert Ritchie of Hollywood, FL. Both of these freshmen have shown the ability to step onto the court at any time and bring a solid spike or, in Robert's case, a great defensive dig.
Chad Mercado (Orlando, FL), yet another freshman, will fill the opposite position. Also a member of Orlando Gold, the 6'5 Mercado is a smart hitter and solid blocker, two important traits for the player assigned to this role. Also looking to get playing time in this spot is the only other returner, 5'10 sophomore Justy Tevid (Barrigada, Guam). Tevid's improved passing and defense, along with his quick arm swing and deceptive vertical, will add to the Bobcat's depth.
For the libero (defensive specialist) position there is a real battle going on for playing time between newcomers Ramirez, Kyle Gauger (Penfield, NY) and Ian Bryner (Miramar, FL). Gauger, the 5'10 co-captain, has fearless determination and excellent leadership skills which will make it difficult to keep him off the court. However, the 6'2 Bryner, who was recruited as a middle blocker/opposite player, has displayed a consistent ability to pass the volleyball and will challenge Gauger and Ramirez for this starting position.
"While an extremely young team, the men have shown enthusiasm for the game this preseason. Our goal this year is solidify our offensive play sets and get a clear understanding of our defense," commented Head Coach Jamie Petrik. "How the team reacts to some of the early matches in Chicago will be a real gauge for the rest of the season."
The young Bobcat team is looking forward to the challenges of this year and is hopeful that this season's experiences will be a foundation of a solid men's volleyball program at Lees-McRae for the coming years. Petrik added, "George Allen said it best: 'Always remember, anything is yours if you are willing to pay the price.' Let's hope these guys pay the price this year; the dividends will be immense."