The SFA Volleyball squad, coaches and travel personnel left for Springfield, Missouri early this morning and hopefully are chillin' in their hotel about now. They'll need their rest after playing here in Nacogdoches yesterday and four matches on the horizon in two days starting tomorrow. Since the girls will play on the road the next two weekends, we can use their time away to introduce you to the five new freshmen that you'll see when we all get back to the Coliseum on September 18 and 19 for the Ladyjack Invitational.
Before we get into this, I want to thank the freshmen so much for being willing to sit down and pen these answers. We did this electronically (so, they didn't really use a pen, I guess) and their schedules are unbelievably tight. I really appreciate their time and have found each of them really polite and accommodating. They are getting used to being "college athletes" - doing interviews, having to respond to various requests, dealing with media relations folks and participating in other formalities are new to them. The fact that they graciously answered these questions voluntarily in the middle of a time where they HAD to do other things is not overlooked here.
In case you've been under a rock, the cast of characters here is:
Madison (Maddie) Hanlan (#7, Libero, Arlington, TX)
Sabrina Burns (#8, Outside Hitter, McAlester, OK)
Emily (Em) Franklin (#9, Outside Hitter, Oregon, WI)
Amber Doolittle (#11, Middle Blocker, Arlington, TX)
Allison Gideon (#12, Setter, Georgetown, TX)
VolleyBlog: In practices it appears the freshmen are already blending very well with the veterans. Have you had a chance to spend time with your veteran teammates off the court?
Allison: We have actually spent a lot of time together as a team. We've done several team dinners and a team movie. We get along really well and always have fun together.
Sabrina: The "veterans" are amazing! They are all really nice and inclusive, we have gotten to hang out with the team, going to the movies, football scrimmage, playing games at one of the girls houses, and eating together of course!
VolleyBlog: Amber, speaking of the veterans, what are the things that impress you most about the veteran middle blockers on this squad? Do you consider it an advantage to your development to be a young middle blocker with such successful college MB’s to work with and learn from?
Amber: The way they play and their demeanor impressed me. Middle blockers have hard job and they do it well. I do think it's an advantage to my development because they don't mind to take the time out to show me or tell me what I need to correct or congratulate me in practice.
VolleyBlog: I've been able to watch several practices and noticed the veterans' support. This is for any of you: To this point, what would you say is the main difference between college-level practices and the practices you went to with high school or club teams?
Maddie: The main difference is the intensity. High school practices were much less intense but in college the practices require 100% every minute.
Amber: The attitudes in practice are a lot different than high school because everybody has a positive attitude instead of complaining about practice.
Sabrina: The main difference between college level practices and high school practices for me is that the college practices are more structured and more position specific and higher energy.
Allison: I'd have to say the biggest difference in practice is the speed of the game. The game is just so much faster now, it takes some getting used to. There is also a higher level of competitiveness in practices.
VolleyBlog: Emily, as a very successful outside hitter at the high school and club level, what is the primary thing you feel you have to improve on or add to your game to continue to be a successful player at the college level?
Emily: I feel that I need to continue [working] on my blocking technique in order to be consistent. And instead of hesitating towards the ball i need to just go for it. Other than that i feel like I am learning new things everyday and will continue to grow.
VolleyBlog: Our program has had a recent run of fantastic recruits at libero which adds to our excitement of having you here at SFA, Maddie . Are there a couple of things you are specifically trying to improve on to assure your success at libero this year?
Maddie: I am trying to improve all areas of my game such as passing and defense and I am also trying to be an excitement factor for the team - always trying to rev everyone up.
VolleyBlog: Sabrina, you’ve worked a lot in practice on the right side. In your past as a high school player and/or club player, have you spent more time on the left or right?
Sabrina: In club I mainly played right side, although I had a bit of time as a left side, but its been mainly right side for the past two years. In high school I played middle for three years and right side one year.
VolleyBlog: Allison, would you say you are more of an “attacking” setter than most? Clearly, putting attackers in the best position to hit is your first job, but when you are on the floor, do you consider the club to have one additional hitting option in yourself?
Allison: I've always been taught to be an offensive weapon as a left-handed setter and I love doing it, it's one of my favorite parts of the game. There is always room for me to be more offensive but for the most part I try to keep myself an option as much as possible.
VolleyBlog: Sabrina, clearly you have strengths as both as a hitter and as a blocker, but what do you enjoy most: coming up with a big kill or a big block?
Sabrina: Man! That is a tough question! I don't know an honest answer to that because I LOVE both! Both are helping the team win... I do like connecting with the setter to get a kill! But I'd say that both make me REALLY happy!!!
VolleyBlog: So, Amber...What was the #1 reason you chose to come to SFA as opposed to going somewhere else to play?
Amber: I chose to come here because just watching the team in practice you could tell that they bond well. Other teams have winning seasons too but they don't get along with their teammates and I didn't want to be involved with that.
VolleyBlog: Same question to you, Maddie. What was your #1 reason?
Maddie: I loved the campus and the small town feel. I also loved the high level of play.
VolleyBlog: Emily, you came a long way to play here. What would you say was your #1 reason for choosing SFA?
Emily: I chose to go to SFA because of the team. They made me feel welcome and wanted. The second reason that I chose to come here was because of the campus - it is beautiful.
VolleyBlog: What about you, Allison?
Allison: My best friend actually high jumps at SFA, so that's what got me looking here in the first place. It's just a great school, I loved the atmosphere and it seemed like a great fit with the coaches and the girls on the team.
VolleyBlog: Thanks again to each of you for making yourselves available for this Q&A session. We'll keep this short and we'll have plenty of opportunities throughout your tenure here at SFA to chat with each of you specifically. Have a great time on the road.. play well and we'll get everyone rockin' when you get back home for our tourney.
Fans, make absolutely sure that you are back in Johnson Coliseum on Friday, September 18 at both 2:30 and 7:00. You'll be able to root on these freshmen as well as the rest of the squad as we battle Alcorn State and The University of Houston.
We'll post again after the weekend with a look at things around the conference and a recap and analysis of SFA's performance in Missouri. Hopefully a trophy and some All-Tourney honors make the long bus ride home a tad bit more comfortable!
Get well, KO!!