Preview: TCU Invitational
Aug. 25, 2016
FORT WORTH, Texas - The TCU volleyball team will kick-off the 2016 season at home for the second straight season by hosting NC State, Arkansas State, Boise State and Northwestern State in the TCU Invitational from Aug. 26-28 at The Rickel inside the University Recreation Center.
The Horned Frogs (0-0) will start their second season under the helm of Director of Volleyball Jill Kramer on Friday at 7 p.m., against the Wolfpack (0-0). TCU will also face the Red Wolves (0-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m., before closing out the tournament with the Broncos (0-0) on Sunday at 2 p.m.
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“We have a lot of experience and we know what it looks like and what it takes to get there,” said senior outside hitter Ashley Smith, who is a two-time All-Team All-Big 12 Second-Team selection.
TCU senior outside hitter Sarita Mikals agrees.
“It was a boost of confident. I think coming off that our team is a lot more confident and we’re aware that we can get to the tournament and we can get past the first round. We’re excited.”
The Horned Frogs begin that quest to get back to the NCAA Tournament Friday when they host NC State at 7 p.m. at The Rickel inside the University Recreation Center on the opening day of the TCU Invitational. The Frogs host Arkansas State on Saturday at 7 p.m. before closing out the invite Sunday at 2 p.m. with Boise State.
Director of Volleyball Jill Kramer, who is in her second season with the Frogs, has seven seniors returning from last year’s team that went 19-10 overall and 9-7 in Big 12 play.
“They’re a pretty special group. They have put in a lot of work, and it’s never easy to go through a coaching change,” Kramer said. “Change in uncomfortable. They have grasped everything we have presented them and trusted us along the way. Our staff is very grateful for that.”
In addition to seven seniors, the Horned Frogs welcomed seven freshmen and one transfer, and Smith, who led the team with 294 kills last year, said things are coming together quite nicely.
“We have been here for two months. This is the first year we have come in June so we have really gotten to know them and they are integrated into the program better than they have been in the past,” she said.
Kramer has also seen the benefit of the team spending all of June and July in the gym.
“It’s a totally different dynamic from last year. There was a lot of learning going on last year, so now we’re really starting in a different place and moving through some things more quickly. It’s been a lot more about finding the right cohesion with the group of players on the court instead of installing real systems,” Kramer said.
“Now, we’ve been speeding it up and finding out what some of the newcomers can do,” she continued. “We have had some girls who have improved a lot from last season to this season, and they have become viable options for us.”
Last year, seven players tallied more than 100 kills and six of them are back. Behind Smith, MB Regan McGuire tallied 224 followed by Mikals (201), MB Natalie Gower (182), OH Jillian Bergeson (167) and OH Ashleigh Martin (124), who was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
McGuire, a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection, led the team in blocks with 157 and Gower, also a second-team selection, finished with 130. Setter Kaylee Smith returns with her 522 assists, which ranked second on the team. Smith (291), Bergeson (282) and Mikals (237) are the top three returning Frogs in digs.
“This year, we have seven seniors and it’s fun to see the growth from when we first got here to now and how much better we’ve gotten,” Mikals said. “I think we have a good chance to go far.”
TCU Invitational Schedule
Saturday Aug. 27
Sunday, Aug. 28
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