New coach brings new philosophy to MOC volleyball
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 26, 2004 1:59 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Focus and preparation.
Stepping onto the volleyball court and battling point for point is the easy part of the game. It's what a team does beforehand that proves to be the ultimate difference between a win and a loss.
New Mount Olive College women's coach Oleksandr "Sasha" Gutor hopes that philosophy pays dividends this fall. He's provided a play book and spends considerable classroom time with the team.
The players go over different rules, not those you'd find in a book, but rules to follow when serving, communicating and executing a play. The focus and preparation of a player begins there and it's Gutor's goal to see they apply that knowledge once they take the court.
"This team is very positive on communication and listening to me in practice," said Gutor. "They follow my ideas and try to bring it to the court. Playing is one thing and practicing is another.
"Bringing that together is very good for the team."
Gutor spent the offseason working with every player -- individually -- on technique. The improvement has been noticed, but Gutor is anxious to see it become reality when the Trojans play their first match Aug. 27 at Fayetteville State University.
Three all-Carolinas Virginia Athletics Conference selections and last year's CVAC rookie of the year return this season.
Heidi Busch, the all-time career kills leader (1,165), earned honorable mention All-America status a year ago. She's joined by fellow all-CVAC and all-Atlantic Region pick Chasity Oxendine, the lone senior on this year's squad.
"Heidi has made excellent progress in her technique, tactic and physical preparation, and has increased her jump," Gutor said. "She has also been a good team leader in the preseason."
Oxendine, one of the nation's top liberos, recorded a 459 digs last season and 390 as a sophomore.
Junior middle hitter Colby Mangum, who hails from Wilmington, recorded 373 kills and a team-best 237 blocks a year ago. Sophomore middle hitter Anna Luft, the league's top freshman last season, was just one of three players in NCAA Division II to serve at least 100 aces.
Guiding the offense is junior setter Sara Christie, the school's all-time assists leader with 3,181.
Back-up setter Aileen Torres, a sophomore from Miami, Fla., subsituted for Christie in a couple of matches last season and finished with 116 assists and 66 digs on defense. Sophomore native Nikki Murphy is Oxendine's backup at libero and finished her freshman campaign with 129 digs.
Joining the seven returnees are freshmen Candice Collins, an outside hitter from California; Sam Mitchell, an outside hitter from Wisconsin and Ashley Napoles, an outside hitter from Miami, Fla.
Mount Olive, runners-up each of the past two seasons to Lees-McRae, is expected to finish in the same spot this fall. The Trojans received 72 points and two-first place votes in the preseason poll, while the Bobcats earned seven first-place picks and 79 points.
"We're prepared to have a good season and we will try to match or exceed the success of recent seasons," Gutor said. "If we play like we know how, we should be very competitive."
Lees-McRae has won every CVAC regular-season title in the league's seven-year history. The Bobcats have captured six tournament crowns, while Mount Olive has one to its credit in 1988.
St. Andrews is selected to finish third in the 10-team league, despite losing six players off last year's team that lost to Lees-McRae in the CVAC Tournament championship. The Knights have four returning players and six freshmen.
"It's an honor to be in the top three, but we have nine players under the age of 19 who will be playing so I'm not sure if we are deserving," said St. Andrews coach Bill Rude, the reigning CVAC coach of the year. "I am happy with the girls that I have as we may struggle early, but hopefully we can learn and improve as the season goes along."
The Knights collected one first-place vote.
Here's the voting breakdown:
School, 1st place votes Points
1. Lees-McRae (7) 79
2. Mount Olive College (2) 72
3. St. Andrews (1) 64
4. Barton 58
5. Anderson 46
6. Pfeiffer University 37
7. Queens University-Charlotte 31
8. Belmont Abbey 27
9. Coker 20
10. Limestone 16
The Trojans play two-thirds of their 35-match schedule on the road.
They start the season with a 10-game roadswing that includes matches against region foes in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and the CVAC.
"That's just the way the schedule worked out. It wasn't anything planned," said Trojans athletics director Dr. Allen "Mac" Cassell. "We need to put them up against some tough tests. We owed some people some games and try to get some preparation early before we hit the conference."
The Trojans will have a five-day stretch for practice before a key, early-season regional tournament at Charleston, W. Va. Practice time, for the most part, will be limited due to several back-to-back playing dates on the calendar. Gutor, ideally, would like to have more time available for development and technique work between matches.
Mount Olive opens the home portion of its schedule Sept. 18 and 19 against Limestone (S.C.) College and Anderson (S.C.) College, respectively. Anderson eliminated the Trojans in the CVAC Tournament semifinals two years ago and spoiled their chances of earning the program's first-ever NCAA bid.
The tournament has expanded to 64 teams this season and will take eight teams from each region.
Writer's note: The Mount Olive College and CVAC sports information offices contributed to this story.
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