Sloane Sunstrum is one of four TCU seniors leading the Frogs into the Big 12.
Aug. 7, 2012
FORT WORTH - If her previous 10 years as head coach of the TCU volleyball program are any indication, Prentice Lewis has never been one to back down from a challenge, be it professional or personal.
In 2002, she took over the TCU program, which had won only 57 matches in its previous six years of existence. By her second year at the helm, Lewis guided the Horned Frogs to their first 20-win season and has posted five since then.
She persevered through eight seasons before finally reaching one of the program’s goals in 2009, when the Frogs found themselves in the NCAA tournament.
The offseason before the 2004 season presented unique challenges as Lewis battled a serious brain injury that required surgery. It was that year that TCU posted its most wins in a season to date (24).
In the offseason between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Lewis gave birth to her first child. Again, Lewis’ drive for success did not waver as she led the Frogs to 25 wins, the second-most in school history.
It’s no surprise that 2012 will prevent another set of challenges as TCU begins its first season in the Big 12, one of the premier conferences for volleyball. TCU’s first match of the 2012 season is Aug. 24, while it begins Big 12 play for the first time on Sept. 22.
Make no mistake, Lewis and the Frogs are more than ready to accept that challenge.
In 2011, the Big 12 finished first in the NCAA Volleyball Conference RPI. It was the sixth-straight year that at least three teams qualified for the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Five of the nine Big 12 schools that compete in volleyball were participants in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
“Coming off our second-best season ever, with a 25-7 record, our program is progressing well to enter the Big 12,” Lewis said.
The 2012 TCU schedule features eight squads that appeared in last year’s NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship, including four that advanced to at least the Sweet 16. Kansas State went to the Sweet 16, Texas and Iowa State bowed out in the Elite Eight, while Southern California was a Final Four team a year ago. Arizona, Baylor, Lipscomb and Northern Colorado also appeared in the field of 64.
TCU returns eight letterwinners for the 2012, including five who were starters a year ago. Highlighting the returners for the Frogs are seniors Megan Munce, Meghan Horio and Sloane Sunstrum, as well as sophomore Stephanie Holland.
Munce was the 2009 Mountain West Setter of the Year and also earned AVCA Honorable Mention All-America and AVCA All-West Region honors in that year. After missing the majority of 2010 due to injury, Munce returned in 2011 to tally 40 aces and climb to No. 3 all-time at TCU for aces.
Horio has appeared in 97-straight matches for the Frogs, which marks every match of her TCU career. Horio has moved from defensive specialist to libero this year to fill the void left by Sarah Joeckel.
Sunstrum was one of just two Frogs to play in and start all 32 matches in 2011. She posted career highs in kills (226), attack percentage (.148), assists (34), aces (27), digs (300) and blocks (34). Sunstrum posted five double-doubles in 2011.
Holland earned Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors in 2011 as she ranked fifth on the team with 192 kills in 101 sets played. Despite making only 11 starts, Holland had the third-best attack percentage (.319) on the team and the third-most blocks (49).
Other returning letterwinners for TCU are sophomore Mattie Burleson, junior Yvonne Igodan, senior Emily Kirby and junior Fleming Smurthwaite. Igodan made 31 starts in 2011.
The Frog newcomers for 2012 are Macy Capen, Alexia Heist, Trisha Langley, Blaire Pickens and Sutton Sunstrum. Sutton Sunstrum is the younger sister of senior Sloane Sunstrum, while Capen and Pickens continue the tradition of California-native Lewis funneling players to TCU from the Golden State.
TCU’s returning letterwinners, as well as the newcomers, will be looked to fill the void left by all-conference performers Kristen Hester, Sarah Joeckel and Jordan Raines. Hester and Raines earned AVCA All-West Region honorable mention a year ago.
“We have graduated five all-conference performers in the last two years,” Lewis said. “We will have to see some good play out of some of our young players this year and every year in the Big 12.”
The 2012 season kicks off Aug. 24 when TCU travels to Nashville for the Belmont Invitational. At the event, the Frogs take on Northern Colorado, Alabama A&M and host Belmont. TCU hosts two home tournaments in 2012 (Aug. 31-Sept. 1 and Sept. 7 and 8), while also traveling to Arizona for the Wildcat Classic.
TCU’s inaugural season in the Big 12 kicks off Sept. 22 when it travels to West Virginia. The Mountaineers are coached by former Frog Jill Kramer (Pape). TCU’s first Big 12 home match is Sept. 26 when Texas Tech visits the University Rec Center for the second-straight year.
The Oct. 31 home match with Texas will be televised nationally on ESPNU, marking the first time TCU has appeared on the ESPN family of networks. When UT came to the URC a year ago, 2,643 fans packed in to make the largest crowd in school history. The regular season concludes Nov. 24 as West Virginia comes to Fort Worth for Senior Day.