Panthers volleyball expecting Sun Belt Conference win

Second year coach, Sally Polhamus and the volleyball squad,  opened their season on the road losing a nail biter against Western Carolina in five sets Aug. 28.

The team had a blue and white scrimmage on Aug. 22 which was open to the public. Coach Polhamus stressed that technique and discipline is important for the team to work on. Last season, the squad had some lolls of being unable to play with disciple throughout an entire match.

During the scrimmage, the Panther players switched back and forth from white squad to blue squad. The blue took the win out of three sets played in the scrimmage. (23-25, 25-21, 25-19).

Freshman Crystal Lee finished with 10 kills and 14 digs, while Sarah Renner followed suit finishing with 26 assists. One of the six senior leaders, Deidra Bohannon finished with double-digits in kills and digs.

“We were very focused in the spring on the technique and in the summer we’re not allowed to work with them in the summer,” Polhamus said. “So they [volleyball team] had the idea to come to the gym three times a week and do individual work, team work and even really pushed each other.”

Coach Polhamus alluded to the team having consequences even without the supervision of the coaches.

“They would have consequences if they didn’t execute a drill, and to have a group out there with no coach out there is pretty awesome,” Coach Polhamus said.  “The team has its eyes set on becoming a top contender at the top of the Sun Belt rankings. The team has something unique the girls can use as an asset, leadership and experience.”

The team has a bunch of leadership this year with six seniors on the team led by outside hitter Deidra Bohannon and blocker Eliza Zachery. Certainly, the team is planning to give all the they have to conclude their senior campaigns.

“Our motto is ‘Together We Will’, so just playing as a team and together and working hard,” Bohannon explained. “The things we can control is our effort, just like getting after it and being disciplined.”

The team is looking to compete to become the Sun Belt Champions of the upcoming year.

“Our ultimate goal is to win the conference championship and go to [the] NCAA [tournament]  and be ready to work,” Bohannon said.

The Panthers made a run when it counted most, resulting in a seventh seed bid into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The girls were eliminated in the first-round against Texas State. This year the team season is picked to finish sixth in conference, according to the Pre-Season polls, but the expectations are higher.

“Seeing that we haven’t been to the tournament in a long time, we were so excited to get there,” Coach Polhamus said. “That’s not good enough this year, so we want to go and push for the final game (Sun Belt Championship match-up).”

Last year, Deidra Bohannon led the team in kills finishing with 432 (third in the Sun Belt). She was named a pre-season All-Sun Belt player.

Returning senior Eliza Zachary led the team in hitting percentage with .306 (sixth in conference).  Her 357 kills in 2014 also made her top 10 in the hitting percentage category.

Zachary is expecting the team to develop and flourish with the six freshmen.

“I really think that we’re a top team in the Sun Belt Conference and that we can definitely win the Sun Belt Tournament,” Zachary said. “Having six seniors it’s really easy to gel with the—it’s really easy to pick up their tendencies, it’s a matter of knowing the feel of each other’s game,” Zachary said.

Four key players are returning who combine for a total of 100 digs. Senior Gabby Serafin with 340, Bohannon (303), senior Natalia Nieto (252), sophomore defensive specialist and setter, Sydney Mauer (168).

Five freshmen specialist Kaityln Dachs, right side /outside hitter, Crystal Lee, middle blocker Shae Chapman.

2014: The team finished their season 5-6 at home and 3-9 on the road. The Panthers must improve their defense from last year. The girls only averaged 1.41 blocks as set. Coach Polhamus’ team managed to finish last in opponents hitting percentage. Opponents hit .239 vs. Panthers last year.

The Panthers are looking forward to getting back to the Sun Belt Tournament and staying longer than just the first-round.

In-state rival Georgia Southern is the home of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament this season.