TCU volleyball hopes to build on first Big 12 experience

Posted Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The TCU volleyball team is already reaping the benefits of life after the Mountain West Conference beyond what was seen in the team’s winning percentage last year.

Coach Prentice Lewis was upfront about her belief that the freshman class that joined the team this year is the best in program history, reiterating that fact several times to the media on Tuesday.

However, those eight freshmen make up almost half of a team that features only four upperclassmen.

So as the 2013 season begins, lessons in strategy and team chemistry share time with just learning how to be a student-athlete.

Part of that is beginning the year on the road with a season-opening game against Furman at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational at 3 p.m. Friday.

“That’s always the hardest thing for young athletes is to travel,” Lewis said. “With all their experience with club volleyball, they typically should be pretty good with traveling, but it’s still having to put on their college jersey and play for the first time. I know we have a couple of kids that will be starting that will have a lot of anxiety.”

Those players will look to senior middle blocker Yvonne Igodan not only for leadership but also another season of outstanding play after she was named to the All-Big 12 preseason team for the second time.

“[She’s] the best athlete we have in the gym,” Lewis said.

While listed as a middle blocker, Igodan will see much more time on the outside this season as she continues to learn the position. However, her ability to reach the 10-foot, 6-inch mark serves the team well as an outside hitting threat.

Behind Igodan is another returning player, Southlake Carroll grad Sutton Sunstrum. Although Sunstrum is just a sophomore, she will be more in her element this season, moving from outside to libero.

“We were hoping to start her off at libero and get her used to that position, but she was jumping well enough to be able to hit on the outside and she beat out the other outside hitters,” Lewis said. “She ended up getting a lot of experience.”

Lewis said Sunstrum could still be an attacking threat should she be playing somewhere other than the defensive specialist position.

Last season was certainly a learning year for the program mostly because of the unknowns of a new conference, resulting in a 15-14 record (4-12 Big 12). This season, the team remains young, but the program has a year of experience against its new conference foes.

With the Frogs’ nonconference schedule at hand before the rigors of Big 12 play present themselves, Lewis’ focus is bringing a team together that will remain mostly intact for several years to come.

“They get along very well off the court,” Lewis said. “Females — it’s a lot different than any male sport. You have to have that chemistry, and right now, I think the chemistry is really good. That’s got to progress through an entire season, which is pretty long.”

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