Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 Player Preview: Sabrina Burns

The first time I met Sabrina was at the 2009 version of the kick-off-the-year dinner at Richard & Debbie Humphreys' lake house. I left that night with two very strong impressions of her. First, Sabrina is very, very polite and second.... Sabrina is very, very tall.

I go about 6'4" in new tennis shoes (just wait, tennis will come up again in a minute) & so its rare that I meet someone of the opposite gender who I look eye-to-eye with in conversation. Tall people actually notice when other tall people start talking to them, because your eye level is...well, level. Now, we've still got Kelsey Owens to preview & we won't bring her beau into this conversation quite yet, because that kind of height is a totally different story. It is VERY weird for someone 6'2"-6'4" to be looking straight up at someone.

Why all this talk about height? Well, Sabrina claims that she's grown over the summer and is now 6'2 1/2". I did some research (yeah, yeah...I'm always looking stuff up like, sue me) and found out that there are only three players in the conference listed at 6'3". I could have named the first two: Chloe Smith at UCA and Jayme Bazile at Lamar. Supposedly, Texas State has a 6'3" freshman named Rachel James.

So, I am lobbying for an official measurement and a change to the roster (by rounding up to an even 6'3").

Whether that happens or not, I can vouch for the fact that Burns play in practice this fall has been the play of someone that tall or taller. I'm gonna go ahead and call it right now (that's how we roll at SFA Athletics)....Burns will be the most improved veteran going from 2009 to 2010. Mark it down: Breakout. She is going to be a force blocking at the net. Oh, and its not like she needs to learn how to swing hard when in offensive mode. If she learns to play with a notch more aggression and fire? Then, look out.

Look, its not as if replacing Ashley Bailey's contributions is trivial. But the killer B's of Bottles and Burns project to make the middle blocker spots solid going into 2010. I'm much more concerned about a second attacker on the outside than I am about what is going on the middle. 'Cause it's not like Hahn and Hill are milk toast once we get beyond the B's.

By the way, if it isn't obvious by now.. I applaud wholeheartedly the switch from RS to MB for Burns. It's not as if she couldn't play on the right, its just that I really agree with the coaching staff that her maximum potential can be realized as a middle blocker. Enough already. The interview: Tell me about your recruitment to play at SFA. Was it Erin or Coach B that first saw you play? What was the process of meeting the SFA staff and ultimately deciding to come to SFA to play?

Sabrina: I'm not sure who it was who first saw me play, but I do remember corresponding with Coach B because he was the one who e-mailed me. The part I remember the most was coming to camp the summer before my senior year, and getting to play with some of the team between sessions, and being really impressed with the coaches, the campus, the living facilities, and loving the team and everything just seemed like the perfect fit. My parents and I had been praying about it, and we talked about it after Coach Humphreys made the offer, and there was no reason not to come here. There were lots of reasons to make SFA my college, so I called Coach and informed her that I would love to be a Lumberjack! I really believe that this is where God wants me, so that's definitely a bonus! I've mentioned that you claim to have grown over the summer. The tallest players in the conference are listed at 6’3”. Are you going to join me in lobbying for that change on the team roster? Where does the height come from in your family?

Sabrina: Well, I'm technically 6'2'' and a half inch, but 6'3'' is certainly easier to print on the roster! I've been led to believe my height comes from my Mom's side. She had a really tall great uncle or something like that, but I'm taller than both my Mom and my Dad, so the height is from a distant relative. I have written before that when I first met you, I assumed you were a middle blocker. This year, that’s the position you are shifting to. Were you always an outside hitter in high school, or do you have any previous experience at MB before last spring?

Sabrina: I started my volleyball career as a middle blocker way back when, and have shifted along the front row throughout the years. As an early teen, when I played club for McAlester, I played in the middle. Then I went to play for Oklahoma Peak Performance in Edmond and I was a left side for a bit. But then I moved to the right for blocking. I played middle for my high school except for my sophomore year, when I played right side. So, throughout the years I've been back and forth across the front row. You got in a decent number of matches as a freshman, but appear poised to play an even more vital role on the 2010 squad. In what areas of your game you are looking to make the biggest improvement?

Sabrina: This year I'm focusing on hitting and blocking, in that for both areas I need to keep better spacing. I tend to get too close to the net. I'm also working on my serve, it's pretty decent, just not the most consistent, so if I get that consistency up, I think it can really help the team score.

[Ed. Note: This is something else I have personally witnessed in practice. Early in her first few practices last year, I thought Burns really struggled in serving drills. This year, she's been quite sharp. It's interesting she chose this in her response, because it was one of the things I was thinking when I wrote the question.] Finally, I am aware that your brothers are also college athletes – each playing tennis at different programs. Did you grow up in a competitive house athletically? Were there a lot of pushing and shoving one-on-one basketball games or tennis grudge matches or things like that?

Sabrina: Yes, we are a fairly competitive household. We never really played basketball, but there were definitely tennis grudge matches. I remember a time when I was consistently able to beat my younger brother, which was a long long time ago. But, I remember the first time I officially lost to him was in a family tournament that we had in Colorado while we were on vacation - I was so mad. Now he can hit a serve over a hundred miles an hour, so I don't feel quite so bad. He would also stay after volleyball practice with me and my mom and as she tossed me balls he would block me...well, try to block me mostly! We've also had jumping contests and races, so it has been a lot of fun having my brothers there so we can push each other and compete.

If you can't be in Waco next Friday night, then be sure and navigate your way over to the SFA Volleyball Official website right before game time and join Assistant Media Relations Director Ben Rikard and I in a live chat during the match. If you are a new fan, or parent/relative/supporter of one of the new players, then you will probably really enjoy this. We are able to keep you posted second by second about the match, answer questions from readers as they come in, supply you with plenty of stats and analysis, and generally give you the best description we can since we will be right there court side for the entire night. It's great fun, so make sure you are with us in the chat room. You don't need any special software or anything. It's easy...just grab your computer, get to the 'Jacks volleyball website, click on the box that Ben will set up and you're done.

At a minimum, I will pair with Ben or go solo on these live chats for the away games in Natchitoches and Huntsville in addition to this weekend. Plus, we will do all our games in the Southland Tournament this way too. Ben may travel to other games, or he may not as his job demands. He'll let you know in his blog with Laurel.

I think we may get player previews on Allison Gideon and possibly Ari Daron in before Waco. That will leave MC Bottles and Kelsey Owens with the attention during the week the semester begins and we have our home opener against Louisiana-Monroe (31st at 7 PM). I've got another article I've been writing about players to watch at other conference schools, but that may have to wait a week or ten days. A group-style all-freshman interview will hit in early September.

Check back often and Axe 'Em Jacks!