08/30/12 — Lusk getting good vibes from 2012 MOC women's volleyball team

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Lusk getting good vibes from 2012 MOC women's volleyball team

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 30, 2012 1:49 PM

Expectations are high for the Mount Olive College women's volleyball team to succeed with first-year head coach Sarah Lusk.

But the Trojans are young, too.

Despite that youth factor, it's not unreasonable to think that MOC could log more victories on the court in 2012 compared to 16 a year ago. Seven of eight starters return, including third-team all-Conference Carolinas performer Carly White.

"I think the biggest strength that we have this year is experience, which last year was one of our weaknesses," Lusk said. "We have four juniors that have been starting since they were freshmen, and we actually have an upper class that can lead the way for the younger generation coming in."

White, sophomore middle blocker Dezirae Mackey, sophomore outside hitter Sarah Robertson and junior opposite Ashlee Reuter bring back considerable firepower and tenacity at the net. The quartet combined for 811 kills, which is more than half of the team's kill total (1,368) for the season.

White logged team bests in hitting percentage (.385) and total blocks (110) last season. The junior from Shallotte served 26 aces.

Junior setter Charnel Austin dished out 817 assists last season and directed an offense that averaged 12 kills per set.

Returners Nicole Sparks and Lauren Lee emerged the defensive stalwarts last season. Lee led the team in digs with 281 and could slide into an outside hitter role this season, replacing Erika Conner, who graduated.

Sparks, a junior libero, collected 232 digs.

"Lauren has stepped it up and has gotten a lot stronger over the summer," Lusk said. "Our defense is also a lot faster this year with Nicole returning. With so many returning starters, we also have players who can easily come in and fill a role without us losing anything."

Former head coach Cole Tallman and Lusk searched for athletic players who could challenge the returners. They signed setter Nicole Karas, who will serve as an understudy to Austin and senior captain Laura Vega.

Liberos Jordan Barnes and Nicole Quizon signed on to play defense. Danielle Plante and Heather Lucas should contend for playing time at outside hitter. Lusk gushed over Karas and Plante, saying those were two players to watch this season.

"The new freshman class is extremely athletic and very motivated," Lusk said. "This makes them valuable assets to the program. It's making the upperclassmen have to push and maintain their role on the team."

League coaches predicted Mount Olive would finish seventh in the preseason poll released last week. The Trojans open their season Friday against Newberry (S.C.) College in a two-day invitational hosted by Francis Marion University.

MOC kicks off its home schedule Sept. 7 against Virginia State.

"I am so excited for this year," Lusk said. "I think the biggest challenge is going to be for these players to stay motivated and push themselves to the next level ... not settling for their level of play now."