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Proceed with caution: Volleyball set to open 2013

After achieving what many considered the unthinkable, Belmont volleyball is proceeding toward the 2013 season with the same “cautious optimism” head coach Deane Webb saw in his senior-less squad last season.

That optimism carried the Bruins to earning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title after defeating top-seeded Morehead State in four sets.

“Once we got into the season and saw the strength of Morehead, they were the prohibitive favorite going into the conference tournament. They had a nation-leading 24 matches in a row at that point,” Webb said. “We thought we were good enough to win, but also knew we would need to play great.”

Despite being plagued by injuries early in the year, the Bruins notched an 11-match winning streak and an 18-match home win streak, tying the record from 2006-08 for the longest in program history.

This year, Webb believes “last year is last year. We’re not defending a championship. Nobody can come and take it out of our trophy case.”

Under the leadership of seniors Jen Myer, Hannah Miranda, Jamie Lundstrom, Allison McCoy and Danielle Prochaska, Webb believes the team has to tools to create another run this season.

Myer is expected to continue a stellar performance after notching 985 attack attempts, 317 kills, 61 blocks (averaging .54 per set) and 341 digs last year.

Contrary to last year’s senior-less squad, this season brings forth a freshman-less team, as redshirt Emma Price will sit the season out for the Bruins.

“We literally have no freshmen, but it may allow us to start at a bit of a higher level than normally. We still have things we need to improve on,” Webb said.

As the season progresses, Webb believes Bruin fans will see the team make “incremental strides” in blocking and serving.

Keeping with tradition, the Bruins will open up their season with the Belmont Invitational at the end of August.

“We’ve hosted this tournament for several years, and we’ve got a lot of good opponents coming in. Memphis is very athletic and physical. Gardner Webb is a program coming into their own, and Miami (OH) is a good team from the MAC (Mid-American Conference),” Webb said. “Each team allows us to see different types of play.”

September features match-ups against Chattanooga and Evansville, as well as the inaugural installment of the Bruin Classic where Belmont will host high-quality opponents Mississippi State, Arkansas State and University of Alabama-Birmingham. The month will wrap up opening OVC play against Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky at home.

Bruin fans will have to wait until the end of October to catch the team at home again, who will face OVC opponents SEMO, UT Martin, Tennessee Tech, and Jacksonville State.

Heading into Thanksgiving break, Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois will come to the Curb in the heat of the OVC race, leading to the championship at the end of the month.

Match time for the team’s first game is set at 6:30 p.m. at the Curb Event Center on Friday.

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