Virginia Tech’s volleyball team has high expectations for the 2010 season, hoping a mixture of veteran leadership and talented youth can catapult it into the upper echelon of the ACC.
The Hokies face eight NCAA tournament teams from a year ago, including No. 19 Tennessee and No. 15 Florida State. The Hokies went 4-8 away from Cassell Coliseum last year and have 16 of their 28 games on the road this season — a challenge the Hokies will have to embrace in order to return to the NCAA Tournament.
“The ACC schedule is what it is. For us to be nine home, 11 away in the ACC ... puts more pressure to win on the road. That’s why we put ourselves into this position with our preseason tournaments,” said Chris Riley, head coach. “Our end-of-the-year record has to reflect that early success in order for us to reach the NCAA tournament. We play Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Missouri — all quality teams. We’re going to have our work cut out for us, but that’s the test our team needs in order to be successful.”
The Hokies only have two seniors returning, All-American middle blocker Felicia Willoughby and defensive specialist Amy Wengrenovich, yet boast a class of six incoming freshmen.
“We’re going to lean on Amy and Felicia as much as we can. We have a good core of upperclassmen, along with a real talented group of young kids too,” Riley said. “Our success will rely on how we can control the emotions of the young kids. They have played a lot of volleyball before they got here, so they’re used to the pressure situations.”
Wengrenovich said the two seniors are fully capable of setting a good example for the young team.
“I think since Felicia and I have been here awhile, we can keep control during pressure situations and be leaders on and off the court,” Wengrenovich said.
Senior leader Willoughby, the team captain, was selected to the 2010 preseason All-ACC volleyball team. The Hokies were picked to finish eighth in the preseason polls, but the players said they are capable of achieving much more.
“One of our team goals is to make the NCAA tournament, and I know we were picked to finish eighth, so we’re the underdogs,” Willoughby said.
“We have something to prove. I don’t mind being picked eighth because I know we’re better than that.”