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Preview: Belmont volleyball is preparing for a season unlike any other

Close to 15 months since they last played a competitive game, Belmont’s volleyball team is looking to start a season unlike any other: one consisting exclusively of conference games.

The Bruins are gearing up for a season that opens against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at home in the Curb Event Center on Feb. 7.

The Ohio Valley Conference announced in January that back-to-back matches against the same teams offer a greater chance of completing as many games as possible in a season altered by COVID-19, where many things are subject to change.

“The biggest challenge for everyone this spring is being able to make critical changes on the fly. Not only with playing a back to back schedule in volleyball but adjusting to any Covid related changes,” said head coach Katelyn Harrison.

There will be 16 games played over a seven-week period, with conference semifinals held on March 2 with the championship match held the following day.

In the 2019-2020 season, Belmont’s volleyball team recorded a 2-29 overall record, and 1-15 in the OVC. The three juniors on last year’s roster were among those with the highest number of kills.

Current senior Halee Van Poppel topped the charts in both digs, serves, kills and total points. While now graduated Akia Warrior had the most assists last season, then freshman Kailee Bass led the team in solo blocks and assisted blocks.

Following Van Poppel statistically were Mary Catherine Ball and Taylor Floyd, both of whom will hit the court as juniors in a few short weeks.

New to the team is a large group of seven freshmen, who Harrison plans to see heavily involved in this season’s rotation.

“I expect them to challenge for playing time on the floor immediately in every position,” said Harrison.

The newest recruits are accompanied by underclassmen sophomore Laura Shoopman, who joined Belmont in spring 2021 after transferring from Oral Roberts University. Shoopman is a right-side hitter who logged second-most kills in her first season with the Golden Eagles.

“She is versatile to play on either pin and should challenge for playing time this spring,” said Harrison.

Shoopman is excited to enter a brand new season with brand new coaches, and can’t wait to learn from their esteemed experience.

“The team and coaches have done an excellent job welcoming me to Belmont,” said Shoopman. “Coach Harrison has great volleyball experience and knowledge and I am excited to be able to learn under her, coach Wells and coach Johnson.”

Going into her second season, Harrison has rounded out her coaching staff with Courtney Johnson. The assistant coach graduated from Samford and became a Bruin after a year of volunteer coaching for the Bulldogs.

“Courtney has been a wonderful addition to the program. She is confident in her ability to train defense and passing and understands the game at a high level,” Harrison said.

Going directly into OVC play, the Bruins are ranked 11th and ready to put in the work to exceed those expectations.

With a strong group of freshmen and experienced upperclassmen, Belmont volleyball is getting closer to an exciting new season.

Eager to get the season underway, the Bruins welcome SIUE at 2:00 pm Feb. 7 and at 5:00 pm the following day.

This article written by Jessica Mattsson.

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