Last week, we began our look at the impact of players lost to Southland teams coming into 2015. In the first installment, we focused on the clubs that finished in the top half of the regular season standings last year. Today, we’ll cover the other half of the conference. Is there a team here that can make a move in 2015 to get into the top half? Are there teams that lost a lot and now are rebuilding?
We’ll use the same format as we did the first time around. Read below for each team’s key losses, the impact on 2015 and the blog’s predicted finish.
Southeastern Louisiana (2014: 11-18, 8-8 SLC)
Key Losses: JR L Morgan Todd (did not return)
Other Losses: One senior, two sophomores and one freshman did not return
New: 4 Freshmen, 1 Transfer
Impact on 2015: There’s a story here that clearly I don’t know. Todd was an honorable mention All-SLC libero for the Lions last year. The best I can tell, she had a year remaining, but she is not on the 2015 roster. Normally, I can get a story on happenings like this, but my (few) sources and other searching turned up nothing. At any rate, Todd was one of the Lions best players and this represents a decent loss to the back row consistency at SLU. So far, one of the new freshman – Monica Ramon – has taken over. I’ll add her to the “watch” list.
Overall Assessment of Losses: Moderate to Low
Blog’s Prediction: I don’t think there is enough push from the bottom part of the conference to knock SLU out of the tournament seeds. I’ll pick them 7th.
Nicholls State (2014: 10-20, 6-10 SLC)
Key Losses: SR L Kaylnn Egea
Other Losses: One junior and one sophomore not returning
New: 3 Freshmen and 2 Transfers
Impact on 2015: Occasionally good players make their way into our conference and seemingly nobody pays them any mind. Such is the case with Egea, who was third in the country (NCAA DI) in digs per set last year and got crickets from the SLC voters when it came time to hand out hardware. When things like that happen, it’s just an embarrassment to the flawed procedure that I outlined in the first part of this series. Egea leaves a big hole, but otherwise, the Nicholls team from 2014 is intact. It looks like Stephanie Tobison, a sophomore who held down a OH/DS role last year, has slid into the libero slot so far.
Overall Assessment of Losses: Moderate – just because Egea could keep so many balls off the floor.
Blog’s Prediction: Not feeling it. They have basically no impact players. 10th.
Incarnate Word (2014: 10-24, 6-10 SLC)
Key Losses: None
Other Losses: One senior
New: 3 Freshmen
Impact on 2015: No impact at all. This is basically the exact same UIW team we saw in 2014. Of course, it remains to be seen if any of the newcomers consistently break into playing rotations. So far, freshman OH Autumn Lockley is seeing the court and in the early going is 2nd in kills per set on the club to Angelique Vidaurri – who frankly, is the face of the team. This year is interesting for UIW because we’ll get a chance to see how far the underclassmen have come. That is, whether or not the team as whole is getting better via experience. That said, this is Vidaurri’s last rodeo and UIW still is not eligible for post-season play.
Overall Assessment of Losses: Minimal. UIW gets to watch players they already had mature and see if one or two freshmen can mix in. It probably means they can be better, but not make a huge jump.
Blog’s Prediction: Eighth, which is what they tied for last year.
McNeese State (2014, 15-17, 5-11 SLC)
Key Losses: None individually but…collectively?
Other Losses: One senior, three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen not returning.
New: 4 Freshmen and 3 Transfer
Impact on 2015: Welcome to your 2015 McNeese State Cowgirls: veteran high-hopper Malina Sanchez and a whole new roster. Clearly, second year coach Ashleigh Fitzgerald is working with an overhauled list. Of course, that could be by design or it could just be repercussions of coaching changes – don’t know which (yet). At any rate, this could all just be “six of one – half dozen of another”, as they say. We’ll have to see if all the new faces make an immediate impact. My guess is probably not and that we are witnessing a rebuild. To be fair, they do still have setter Kelly Graham (who’s game I’ve liked) and MB Amber Fryer (who’s game I haven’t), but all in all, this is an overhaul.
Overall Assessment of Losses: Who knows? None of the losses were really big impact players, but the sheer volume of turnover is enough to make you stand up and notice.
Blog’s Prediction: 11th. It’s gonna take time. McNeese typically has been a program that I thought could be sneaky good. But, I’m not going to make them my sleeper this year.. that’ll go to HBU.
Lamar (2014, 5-23, 5-11 SLC)
Key Losses: None
Other Losses: two seniors, one sophomore not returning and one freshman not returning.
New: 6 Freshmen and 1 Transfer
Impact on 2015: No real impact. The two seniors had decent roles while in Cardinal red, but they are replaceable. This team was pretty brutal to watch in 2014. When they came to Nacogdoches (and in the few times I saw them elsewhere), they looked as though they were completely worn out and beaten down. They exhibited a complete lack of energy and collectiveness. Surely, like Fitzgerald at McNeese, second year head coach Alan Edwards is looking to build something here. MB Chelsea Grant still hasn’t got her due.. she’s better than people realize. I have to wonder if this is a team that will do a ton of mixing and matching before SLC play.
Overall Assessment of Losses: Minimal. Like at McNeese, it’s about growth at Lamar right now. Depending upon the incoming talent, LU might be a step ahead of the Cowgirls in their process.
Blog’s Prediction: 9th, but in the last tourney spot since UIW can’t go. So, I guess I’m predicting this will be our first round opponent in Conway. We’ll see.
Abilene Christian (2014, 6-24, 4-12 SLC)
Key Losses: None, but like McNeese they lost a ton of “volume”.
Other Losses: two seniors, three sophomores and two freshman not returning
New: 5 Freshmen and 1 Transfer
Impact on 2015: Very few of the many players that did not return garnered any significant playing time. That said, Neely Borger (MB) was a regular starter – she was one of the seniors that is done – and Brooke Ray led them team in digs, albeit with only 288. ACU is still in the transition of trying to “move up” to the overall quality of volleyball in the Southland. They’ll get there, but they are still probably a few years away.
Overall Assessment of Losses: On the low end of moderate. Maybe minimal.
Blog’s Prediction: Next to last with somewhere between three to five SLC wins.
New Orleans (2014, 6-24, 0-16 SLC)
Key Losses: None, but again, like McNeese and ACU, a fair quantity of players did not return. This sort of thing happens on teams that don’t have a lot of wins to show for their efforts.
Other Losses: two seniors finished, one junior, one sophomore and three freshman not returning
New: 6 Freshmen and 3 Transfer
Impact on 2015: Tough to tell. Taylor Berry (JR), Brooklyn Frank (SO) and Mikayla Sellers-Weibe (SO) were all pretty regular starters last year. Of course, the team struggled as it makes the transition to the Southland so one has wonder how many of those players would have seen consistent time with other SLC schools. Coach Millicent Van Norden may be looking to replace what they brought last year with the transfer help. Several of the transfers have played regularly in the early going. Two players to mention for UNO: I have always like Celeste Ramirez, who has shuffled from setter to libero off-and-on. She’s very athletic and seemed to have the best overall talent on the 2014 squad. Also, I heard several people praise setter Sara Hammoutene who came over from France last year. I like what she brings as well.
Overall Assessment of Losses: I’ll judge it to be minimal because it looks like they’ve got the transfer replacement parts.
Blog’s Prediction: Last, but I won’t be surprised at all if they pick up some conference wins this time around.