Photo Courtesy of Sammy Croft
BANNER ELK, N.C. – The Lees-McRae College women's volleyball team will open its 2017 season with three matches in Milledgeville, Georgia this weekend. The Bobcats begin the weekend with a 3 p.m. tilt against Valdosta State on Friday before taking on Anderson (S.C.) and Georgia College Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
About the Bobcats – Lees-McRae will look to improve upon an 11-18 record overall and a 7-9 mark in league matches from 2016 this fall. The Bobcats should have experience on their side in 2017 as 13 of the 15 players that will suit up for the squad have played collegiate volleyball either at the Division II or junior college level.
About Opponents – Much like Lees-McRae, Valdosta State had an up-and-down season in 2016. The Blazers finished with a 13-18 mark overall and a 9-11 record in Gulf South Conference play. One challenge facing VSU in 2017 will be trying to replace departing senior Susanna Peonia who was a All-GSC First Team selection last fall. Peonia was the Blazers' top offensive weapon as she paced the team with 227 kills, a .227 hitting percentage and 87 blocks.
Anderson enters 2017 under new leadership as former Newberry Head Coach Todd Hay is the program's new head coach. Hay's transition with the Trojans should be easier than most as his new roste features 12 returners and its entire starting lineup from a squad that went 19-12 in 2016. Individually, the Trojans are figured to be led by Preseason All-Conference selections Emily Conlin, Rachel Burts, Marissa Mitter and Serena Jackson.
Georgia College enters its fifth season as a program this fall. The Bobcats are coming off their best season to date as they went 17-14 overall, including a perfect 5-0 against Conference Carolinas foes, last season. The growth in GC's program is not only evident in the win-loss record but also in recognition as junior Taylor Svehla became the first Bobcat to earn Preseason All-Peach Belt Conference honors earlier this week.
Preseason Prediction – Earlier this month, Lees-McRae was selected to finish eighth in the Conference Carolinas Preseason Poll. Seniors Madison Martin, Courtney Weathersbee and Rachel Cutshaw were all selected as players to watch for the squad this season.
Senior Spotlight – Martin has a chance to make program history this weekend in Milledgeville as she needs just 37 more digs to break the program's all-time record in that category. If Martin does get those 37 digs, she would surpass former Bobcat Megan Epperson who is the current record holder with 1,237 digs.
Season-Opening Stats/Series Histories – Lees-McRae has had a mixed bag of results in its past 10 season opening matches. The Bobcats hold a record of 4-6 in those contests, but they have won two of the last three.
With the exception of Anderson who used to compete in the same conference as Lees-McRae, there is not a ton of history between the Bobcats and their two other opponents this weekend. Valdosta State won the only matchup between the two programs last season, while Saturday's matchup against Georgia College will be the first ever meeting. However, the Bobcats do hold an 11-3 record overall against Anderson since 2005.