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Volleyball ready to push for A-Sun title

After a third-place finish in the Atlantic Sun last season, the Belmont volleyball team is looking to build on its strengths to take this year’s conference title.

With five freshmen, five sophomores and one incoming transfer, pre-season picks put Belmont third again, behind conference rivals Lipscomb and Kennesaw State.  Despite having such a young team, however, head coach Deane Webb has higher aspirations for them.

“I believe we are good enough to win our conference,” he said.

Last year saw five players named to Atlantic Sun all-conference teams. Belmont’s team, with an average GPA of 3.537, also had the honor of being one of four A-Sun teams to receive the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award.

Webb, the youngest coach in the NCAA to win 300 games, also believes this team has room for improvement.

“I also believe we have the opportunity to be better defensively this year, and I hope that happens.”

A key part of the Bruins’ chance at success will come down to senior Maggie Johnson.  Earlier this summer, the A-Sun named her Preseason Player of the Year for her contributions and leadership.

“Maggie is likely the most well-rounded outside attacker in our conference,” Webb said.  “In addition to her personal skills, Maggie is an emotional player that helps keep our team competing at a high intensity.”

The team begins regular season action as it hosts the Belmont Invitational on Aug. 27.  Conference play begins on Sept. 23 at Kennesaw State.

“We are also looking forward to matchups with Kansas, Tulane, and Western Kentucky,” Webb said. “Each of those teams was ranked higher than we were last year, and I’m excited to see our team be stretched.”

Next year, new opponents will be on the schedule as Belmont joins the Ohio Valley Conference in July 2012.

“Finally, as we look towards the future, it is good for us to see future OVC opponents Murray State, Tennessee Tech, and UT Martin,” Webb said.

He said he is confident the team will have strong fan support in the Curb Event Center this season.

“They always support us in such a great way and provide a great encouragement to our team,” he said. “From the Pembroke guys, to our faculty and staff, to every student that chooses to attend, they’re all greatly appreciated.”

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