Aug. 19, 2009
By Katy Johnstone
Athletic Media Relations
Fort Collins, Colo. – With the No. 24-ranked Colorado State volleyball team just more than one week away from its season opener against Pepperdine Aug. 28 at Moby Arena, Head Coach Tom Hilbert and the rest of the 2009 CSU volleyball program held their annual media day Wednesday evening at Moby Arena.
Hilbert, characterizing his team as young but very talented and balanced, spoke in front of nearly 100 members of the Ram Volleyball Network booster club and media, while introducing each of the 17 members on the team, including seniors Katelin Batten – the “best libero in the Mountain West” according to Hilbert - and Tessa Nelson, who was voted MWC preseason Co-Player of the Year earlier this month. The Rams then took part in interviews and informal Q&A sessions with boosters.
Below is a transcript of Coach Hilbert’s Q&A with media:
With several players changing positions since last year, how is the team adapting to all the position changes?
There is still a lot of learning and adapting going on, but last spring we played our returning players in those positions and are continuing to work with those changes. We have several new players and the middle blocker position is a battle and through the course of the season a lot of people will play that position. Senior Tessa Nelson has locked that position, but it will be interesting to see who will play opposite her. Freshman Dana Cranston is a maturing player, who will play a role for us somehow this fall. Junior Danielle Minch is another key player who can play opposite Nelson and will be playing more on the right side this fall.
How is sophomore setter Evan Sanders adjusting with everyone changing around her?
Sanders is a good player and trying to find consistency in her tempo and positioning. At this point everyone is going to have to work around her. She is a talented player and what we need to do is keep practicing, so she can gain that consistency.
Are you happy with the preseason ranking of 24?
Yes, but it’s hard to tell right now of where we’re at. I think we could be 24 in the country, but it may take us until mid-season to be that good, so we will have to see. We have a good preseason schedule with several good teams we will play at home, including No. 26 Pepperdine, Ohio State, and No. 39 Cal Poly. The poll is really all about who we can knock off and I think we are worthy of national ranking. Now we need to win some matches and keep that ranking. We cannot afford to lose and our preseason matches are against teams that are in the 25-50 range, including North Carolina, Tennessee, Pepperdine, and Duke. The rankings are a fun thing to watch and look at, but we want to win the Mountain West Conference.
What do you expect out of the Mountain West this year?
The MWC has six good teams this year. Utah, who is ranked No. 17 nationally and won the MWC last year, but also lost four critical players. BYU is another contender to watch for. They also lost some critical players and were picked to finish third in the MWC. On the other hand New Mexico lost only one key player and everyone else returned. TCU is a very good team and has a lot of returning players. Same goes for UNLV, which only lost its setter. It’s a six-team race and winning on the road will be critical this season.
How is the team filling those shoes of the key players you lost?
We are not filling Mekana Barnes’ shoes with a Mekana-type player. She is so powerful and we do not have that type of termination on this team; however, we are most balanced this year. We have several players playing at a high level and I think we will be more outside hitter based. However, Evan Sanders has a great ability to get the ball to Tessa Nelson. Those two have chemistry and work well together. We are just a different kind of team. We don’t have that one powerful go-to player, but we have several good players.
How will the youth of this team play a role this season?
I think the youth of a team is always fun, because you see them grow as a player, and you see them grow as a team. I think a younger team will grow more in a course of a year.
What makes Katelin Batten one of the best?
I would say Batten is the best libero in the MWC. She is a great serve receiver and she can cover a lot of space on the court. She also digs in the cross-court digging spot; because we are a strong blocking team we funnel the ball to that cross-court section. She is able to dig really hard with aggressive hitters and she does that as well or better than any libero.
You have such a tall lineup this year; how will this help you?
One word: Blocking. We are able to recruit tall players and we are able to have a lot of players on one hitter and the ball. Blocking is something we teach and use to go against some of the bigger teams we will play. We have a good system of blocking here at Colorado State, and that is something we use to our advantage.
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