The WTAMU Lady Buffs volleyball team will enter the 2013 season ranked No. 10 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Top-25 poll announced last month. The team is coming of a 2012 season that saw them grab their seventh consecutive Lone Star Conference Tournament championship and twelfth South Central Regional title in school history.
“We had a lot of personnel changes within the season,” said head coach Jason Skoch, “and a lot of the seniors didn’t really heed some of the stuff we were talking about, so they lost some. Unfortunately, it seems to be human nature, you have to suffer a little to have that wake-up call. To their credit, those girls just really turned it around, and it was amazing to see the turn-a-round that happened in one season. To know that we lost three starters [during the season] and still do what we did, to me it was an amazing year.”
Skoch looks to continue the success the program has had since he arrived, as he enters his fifth season with a 133-21 overall record in his previous four years at WT. Under Skoch, the Lady Buffs have made four NCAA Postseason appearances, two Elite Eight appearances and were National Runners-Up in his first season.
WT will be missing the presence of five graduated seniors from 2012, including three All-Americans: Erin Dougherty, Lacy Hayes and Lauren Beville. They will return a pair of senior starters in middle blocker Laura Iwuchukwu and outside hitter Halie Harton. The other three seniors are outside hitter Lee Golden, outside hitter/libero Keia Strother and right side Morgan Woodruff.
The youth movement is in, and roster turnover has not seemed to be a problem for Skoch and company. The Lady Buffs will be depending on impact performances from junior outside hitter Lauren Bevan, sophomore middle blocker Lexi Davis, junior setter/right side Kameryn Hayes and junior middle blocker Jessica Johnson.
WT is hoping a few newcomers from their bevy of incoming freshmen will step in and contribute. The freshman class consists of right side Blaine Koester, outside hitter Marisa Ochoa, setter Kyli Schulz, setter Emma Eickhoff, libero Lauren Britten, middle blocker Leah Mayer, libero Aspen Sanders, outside hitter Courtney Robledo, defensive specialist Autumn Arnold, setter Katelyn Stewart, middle blocker Cori Haley, right side Morgan Robledo, right side Lauren Waller and defensive specialist McKenzie Long.
“The one thing I know we do good [regarding roster turnover] is we make it exceptionally clear that we win because of the players,” Skoch said. “We tell the girls, ‘We’re going to give you that empowerment, but you better be accountable to what that means. There are two sides to that coin.’ This year, I think we have the same expectations, if not more, because we’ve got good kids. They’re working hard and that’s all we ask of them.”
The Lady Buffs kick the season off against the ThunderWolves of Colorado State-Pueblo at home on Sep. 5 at 7 p.m. They will open Lone Star Conference play against the Mustangs of Midwestern State on Sep. 17 at 7 p.m. in Wichita Falls.