Boise State Ready for Second Mountain West Campaign
One year after Boise State's move into the Mountain West the Broncos enter year two with a sense of familiarity about their new home and rivals. Boise State began 2011 not knowing what to expect from the league and its members.
What the Broncos found were tall, physical and skilled teams, in addition to a conference that was well balanced top to bottom. After being picked to finish sixth in the 2011 coaches poll they surprised a few teams including recording sweeps over Air Force, UNLV and Wyoming, eventually tying for fifth-place in the final MW standings.
In 2012 Boise State will look to capitalize on the experience gained from the first year in the conference. Unlike a year ago, the blue and orange now knows what to expect week-to-week in the league.
However, before they can worry about their league opponents the Broncos will have to deal with a challenging nonconference slate. Among those teams on the schedule are three teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Tournament in the University of Washington, University of Arizona and American University. There are also three non-MW teams on the schedule that are either ranked or receiving votes in the 2012 American Volleyball Coaches Association's (AVCA) Preseason Top 25, those teams are No. 14 Washington, as well as Arizona and St. Mary's College (Calif.) that are getting votes.
Like last year the schedule will be challenging especially when league play comes around. Boise State looks poised for another solid season after recording its first back-to-back winning seasons in 15 years. But before for the Broncos can rise to the challenge of a new campaign, they must first answer a few questions.
The first is, who do the Broncos have to replace the talented senior class which featured three full-time starters (including the libero), two of which were in the starting lineup for three years, and a fourth that started half the matches in 2011?
Another question will be, who will step up and take on the leadership of the new squad which includes 10 underclassmen, including two redshirt freshmen and five new faces on a roster of 15 players?
Shawn Garus, who enters his fourth season at the helm of the Boise State volleyball program, is aware of the challenges awaiting his young team.
"It is going to be a challenge for us with the schedule and all the new faces. We lost some key impact players last year, but we do have some talented and experienced returners coming back," said Garus. "We have a solid core group of four players in our three seniors Liz Harden, Fiona Jones and Kersti Whitney, along with our junior setter Casey Rose. They have all seen a lot of match time, we are going to need them to take control of the team and provide the leadership. But the younger players and newcomers are going to have to step up as well with energy, competitiveness and consistency in order for us to be successful."
"We need more balance with everyone contributing. We have the potential to be good and compete with the teams in our league, but we need individuals to be willing to take on bigger roles, make big plays and take the big swing. How well this group steps up as a whole will define how well we do this year, if they don't step up and rise to the challenge we will struggle," concluded Garus.
The following is a short review of what Boise State has entering the 2012 campaign
. POSITION-BY-POSITION PREVIEW Setter Who's Back?
Casey Rose (Eugene, Ore.) is the only Bronco back from last season who saw time at setter. The junior who played in all 31 matches coming in off the bench, was an integral part in the team's success. Last year Rose recorded a team second-best for assists and service aces with 469 and 30, respectively, to go with 29 kills, 182 digs and 59.5 points. This season the coaching staff will look for Rose to move into the starting role and become a leader on the floor.
Sarah Baugh (Poulsbo, Wash.) is one of three true freshmen on the team. The freshman was a two-time Olympic League MVP and four-time all-conference honoree while leading North Kitsap High School to back-to-back Washington state tournament appearances. The Boise State coaches like her athleticism, her hard working mentality and focus. Baugh possesses the talent and skill to push Rose for quality playing time at the setter position this year. Outside Hitter Who's Back?
There are six outside hitters on this year's roster including two returning starters in seniors Liz Harden and Fiona Jones, as well as key reserve Taylor Murphey. A lot will be expected of the trio as they are the only members of this group that have actually played in a match for the Broncos.
Liz Harden (Lake Forest, Calif.) is a three-year starter who can hit on both the left and right side. Harden led the team in kills last year and is expected to have a big senior year in 2012. She has started in 70 of 93 career matches and has accumulated a team-high 733 kills in her three-year career to date. The senior is one of the players the coaches will be looking to for leadership and scoring this fall.
Fiona Jones (Bountiful, Utah) will help Harden anchor the Bronco attack this season. Jones was on a roll last year as a starter before being sidelined by an injury. The senior is a hard worker on the floor and in the weight room. When healthy she is a strong hitter, recording 194 kills in two-thirds of a season last year and 465 in her two year career at Boise State. The Utah native will be depended upon for leadership both on and off the floor this coming season.
One of the key reserve players in 2011 was Taylor Murphey (Saint George, Utah) who played a big role in filling in the gaps as injuries mounted. Murphey did a solid job covering for Fiona Jones and eventually earned five starts late in the season. She saw action in 20 matches recording 41 kills and 15 blocks. The sophomore is a solid volleyball player who earned valuable experience as a true freshman, which has positioned her to become an impact player this fall.
Katelyn Kinghorn (Rigby, Idaho) redshirted last fall as a true freshman giving her time to learn the Boise State system and physically strengthen her game. Kinghorn had a good spring season and impressed the coaching staff with her work ethic. The former first-team all-state and league MVP prep star from Idaho is expected to challenge for quality playing time this fall. Kinghorn's ball control and defensive passing abilities which are among the best on the team will be a big asset to the team. Who's New?
Joining the three returners on the attack are one spring transfer in Alyssa Gammel and Janessa White, a true freshman.
Alyssa Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) played last fall at Virginia Tech University as a freshman before transferring to Boise State for the spring semester. The sophomore will challenge immediately for a starting role at outside hitter and regardless of that outcome, will be an impact player for the Broncos. Gammel is an athletic go-to type of player with a strong arm and solid swing that could see her potentially lead the team in kills when the season comes to its conclusion.
The final outside hitter on the squad is true freshman Janessa White (Salem, Ore.). White is a tall, athletic player with great potential. She was the MVP of her conference last fall as a senior at South Salem High School and a three-time all-conference honoree. As one of five players six feet or taller on the roster her height and athleticism will be a bonus for the Broncos on the court.
Middle Blocker Who's Back?
The middle blockers have a lot of experience back from last year's team. Among the four players who will play at the position are returning starter Brittany Reardon and Leah Stevens, who started the season as a key reserve but did record 10 starts throughout the campaign.
The top Bronco in hitting percentage last fall was Brittany Reardon (Stayton, Ore.) who was a redshirt freshman at the time. Reardon turned in the second-best season in school history and finished the year ranked first in the MW and 31st nationally hitting an impressive .355 percent. She was also a force defensively for Boise State ranking second on the team in blocks with 78. With one year under her belt Reardon is expected to have a big role this season. She will be challenged to not only repeat her success from a year ago but to pick it up a level in 2012.
Leah Stevens (Scottsdale, Ariz.) is the second player back that saw a lot of action last fall starting in 10 of 23 matches played, recording 79 kills, 40 blocks and 104.5 points. The junior is a solid middle blocker who can move to the outside when needed. Stevens has the athleticism and ability to be among the best at the middle blocker position for Boise State come opening day.
The third middle blocker back from 2011 is Sarah Webster (Palm Springs, Calif.) who redshirted. Webster had a good spring camp and should push Reardon and Stevens for quality playing time. She was a two-time conference player of the year and two-time All-CIF honoree as a prep star at Palm Springs High School.
The newcomer to the position is spring transfer Aly Duffin (Loomis, Calif.) who spent the fall of 2011 at Georgia Southern University before enrolling at Boise State last January. The former three-time all-conference high school star from California is a hard worker with a good slide attack off one foot. Duffin is expected to challenge the other three middle blockers for a starting role when the season opens on Aug. 24.
Libero and Defensive Specialists Who's Back?
There are three Broncos who are expected to see action as either the libero or defensive specialist positions this fall. One of the three, Kersti Whitney, started on the 2011 squad at defensive specialist. Kristyn Kirschenman saw action in 29 matches in 2011, while Jackie Pyles is a true freshman this season.
The projected 2012 libero is senior Kersti Whitney (Coto de Caza, Calif.). Whitney is an excellent defensive player who's experience comes primarily as a defensive specialist through her first three years. However, she is expected to easily move into the libero role this fall. The native of California started in 16 of 22 matches last fall recording a team third-best 205 digs. The coaching staff expects the experience of Whitney to have a stabilizing affect along the back line this season.
Kristyn Kirschenman (Bakersfield, Calif.) saw a lot of time on the floor in 2011 as a redshirt sophomore. Kirschenman played in 29 matches with one start as a defensive specialist recording 89 digs. She is a good server and possesses solid defensive skills. The redshirt sophomore is expected to play the role of a defensive specialist in 2012 but could move to libero if needed. Who's New?
There is one new face in this group and that is Jackie Pyles (White Lake, Mich.). Pyles has a ton of volleyball experience playing the game all her life. She played both outside hitter and defensive specialist in high school but is expected to move into the back line at Boise State. The true freshman plays with a lot of energy and is a talented defensive passer. Pyles was a Michigan honorable mention all-state and three-time all-conference first team honoree in high school.