Despite a new conference, new assistant coaches and no seniors on their roster, the Belmont Bruins volleyball team has been picked to do well during their inaugural season in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Last month, conference coaches voted the Bruins as the second-best team in the OVC in their preseason poll, one year after Belmont shared an Atlantic Sun regular season title and nearly qualified for the NCAA tournament.
“I was very surprised we were picked that high,” said head coach Deane Webb. “We haven’t earned anything in the OVC yet but are looking forward to the challenges that are coming. Morehead State is the defending champion, so of course our goal is to reach that level at some point very soon.”
If the Bruins reach that point this season, they will do so without a senior on their squad. That doesn’t mean they won’t have leaders short on experience though.
As a sophomore last year, outside hitter Jen Myer became only the third player in Belmont history to lead an NCAA statistical category when she served an average of 0.79 aces per set.
Both Myer and junior middle blocker Allison McCoy, who finished the season with a team high 82 total blocks, are expected to step up into leadership roles on the team.
“Allison and Jen will likely get a great number of swings for our team this year, but I expect our team to be much more balanced offensively than we have in recent years,” Webb said.
Along with new leadership and new conference opponents, the Bruins have also added assistant Tony Howell and Jeanette Waldo to their coaching staff.
Howell is no stranger to Belmont athletics. He was an assistant for the team from 2004-09 before spending the past two seasons across town at Tennessee State.
Waldo spent last season at the Minnesota, where the Golden Gophers were able to advance to the NCAA Regional Semifinals.
“Both Tony and Jeanette have done a great job with our team so far,” Webb said. “Tony has coached in the OVC for the last two years, so in many ways he is more familiar with our upcoming opponents than I am. Jeanette was coaching in the Big Ten last year, and we’re excited to have that experience on our sideline working with our liberos.”
Even with all the changes, players like junior libero Jamie Lundstrom find it hard not to be optimistic about the season.
“(My expectations are) really high. We definitely have great team chemistry,” said Lundstrom. “We’ve got a lot of heart.”
The team opened up regular season action Saturday when the Bruins hosted the Belmont Invitational for Alabama A&M, Northern Colorado and TCU. Lundstrom was the only player from Belmont to make the All-Tournament team.
Conference play begins Sept. 21 when the Bruins face Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky. Webb said he expects conference opponents to have strong defenses that have a high level of ball control.