TCU Volleyball Excited for New Year

Aug. 12, 2015

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By Jay Hinton
TCU Athletics Media Relations

FORT WORTH, Texas -- New coaches. New faces. New focus.

TCU volleyball is celebrating its 20th year since the inception of the program, and TCU's first scholarship volleyball student-athlete is at the helm of the Frogs with the determination to take the program to a new level.

"There is still something to build here," said TCU Director of Volleyball Jill Kramer, who was hired in December and was part of the first team ever assembled at TCU. "This program has only made one NCAA Tournament in the 20-year history. There is a ton to be done still. We want people who want to be trailblazers; we want people who want to be builders of a program."

The Frogs, who are entering their fourth season in the Big 12, are welcoming a bevy to talent, and the new faces along with a solid group of returners, Kramer likes the possibilities.

"We have a lot of six-rotation players on our team, which is not very common," Kramer said. "I think we have a lot of players on our team that are going to have a big impact. We have a lot of new faces that are going to be able to make an impact right off the bat."

Anchoring the returners are Preseason All-Big 12 selection Ashley Smith; senior setter Alexia Heist; senior right side Blaire Pickens; junior outside hitter Sarita Mikals; senior libero Sutton Sunstrom; and junior middle blockers Regan McGuire and Natalie Gower.

"We have set our goals, and we want to make it to the tournament this year," said Smith, who led the team in kills last season with 333. "Each step along the way we know how we're going to get there and where we need to refresh to get back to that goal."

The Frogs finished 17-15 overall and 6-10 in Big 12 play, but Kramer believes the right pieces are in place to make a noticeable improvement.

"We need to take care of them in mind and in body and get the chemistry in the right place," she said. "In my mind, especially with young females, it's about building relationships, keeping them healthy and helping them grow into strong confident young women. Our athletic department does a good job of giving us the tools to make that happen."

The Frogs opened spring practice Monday morning, and Smith can already see a change of attitude.

"The biggest difference, I think, is the positivity the new program has," she said. "Everything we do, we do it energetically and with a lot of purpose. We have set plans to where we want to go and how we're going to get there."

Heist agreed.

"It's been so awesome. We love the new coaches," she said. "It's been a big change, but it's been so good. We're excited for the season."

Behind Smith, McGuire (193), Mikals (185), Pickens (181) and Gower (104) topped the century mark in kills, while Heist led the team in assists (836) and McGuire was big in the net with a team-leading 92 blocks and Sunstrum tallied a team-best 405 digs. Smith, Heist and McGuire finished with 27, 25 and 20 service aces, respectively.

"We have two things we talk about in our gym," Kramer said. "Be the best you can be and help each other be the best they can be."

Fans can get their first look at the Frogs on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m., during an open scrimmage, TCU will then play on Aug. 22 in the Purple and White Scrimmage set for 3:30 p.m. at the University Rec Center. They open the regular season Aug. 28-29 with the TCU Tournament by hosting Abilene Christian, Texas State and UTEP.



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