Aug. 9, 2011
The University of Oklahoma volleyball team reported to campus Monday to begin preseason practice. Practice got underway Tuesday morning and the team opens the season on Friday, August 26 against SMU at 7 p.m.
In preparation for the upcoming campaign, SoonerSports.com recently sat down with Head Coach Santiago Restrepo for a two-part series to learn more about a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 just last season and returns five starters and its libero. Read part one here.
On the setters...
"Brianne (Barker) is a very good leader. She is the one that has to be able to make our other players better. She has to find a way to do that. We're going to have a chance to give the freshmen a chance to play and she has to figure out a way to make them better. She does a very good job of that. She has to get a lot more touches on blocking. She has to have the mentality of defending. She has very good defense. She has controlled our tempo and offense from the get-go so we're extremely confident she'll do a terrific job this year.
"Kylie (Cowan) has done a tremendous job for us on the second team. She will be someone that can give us valuable minutes on the right back defending and serving. She has a very strong serve which is what we need in that position and she also has very good hands in case Bri has to defend the first ball.
"We have two freshmen that are also setters (Kaitlyn Drawe and Caroline Weir). They'll do some good work for us. They're gifted but there's a lot of work ahead for them as far as location, chemistry with the team, getting stronger, faster and jumping higher. We have four people listed as setters that will contribute especially in practice and that's key."
On the attackers...
"We have Caitlin (Higgins) who is as healthy as she's ever been. She passes the ball very well for us. She's very important for us. She has a very good connection with Brianne (Barker). That's going to be very key. Morgan (Reynolds) can hit from either the right or left side and that's something that's very unique. She's a left-handed hitter and she's unique in our system because we can move her one way or the other depending on what you want to do. Kayla (Rodriguez) is the strongest she has been. She's worked extremely hard over the summer to put some muscle on. She's jumping a little higher too. She'll be another one waiting in the wings to be able to give us valuable minutes. She's gifted and a very hard hitter and very good defender.
"Tara (Dunn) reaches high and her point of contact is pretty high, probably higher than any of our outside hitters, but she's raw considering she hasn't played at this level yet. We'll see how she does. She's also a very good passer. She will be up to the challenge.
"Suzy (Boulavsky) is different because she's left-handed and playing on the right side. Not everyone has that. Both Morgan and Suzy give us that but they're two totally different players which makes it hard for other teams to adjust to because they don't see it as much. The right side is natural to them because it opens the court and they can see the set easier. It makes it hard to block because you don't see a lefty too many times. Suzy has a large repertoire of shots. She can hit the ball hard but she mixes it up with roll shots and tips down the line, deep. She has a very good sharp angle. She is very effective with what she does."
On the middle blockers...
"Sallie (McLaurin) is really talented in transition. She gets off the net as fast as she can, to the ball as fast as she can and off the floor as fast as she can. That's unique because middle blockers don't usually move that quickly after they go up and block, coming off the net and then going for a hit. She's very good. Then we have Carlee (Roethlisberger). She's a gifted athlete that jumps high and hits the ball high. She's going to have to get some reps with Brianne (Barker). Hopefully, they'll click. She could give us some minutes. Grace (Whitley) reminds me a lot of Sallie in how she comes off the net and hits really fast. She's really fast and a very good jumper."
On the defensive specialists...
"I think they're a big reason why we went to the Sweet 16. If we didn't have María (Fernada), Eden (Williams), Mindy (Gowen) and even Brianne (Barker) and Caitlin (Higgins) playing defense the way they did we wouldn't have made it that far. They all have the little things they do that are very good. Maria is good at passing. She passes better than anyone I've coached here. Mindy is quick to coverage. Eden is good at reading the offense and being at the right place. She also does a good job of digging balls and chasing balls. They're all well-rounded players, not just one dimensional. In practice, they don't let the ball drop. They make it exciting. That's what you need in practice. Mindy has a very good short serve that gives teams trouble. They are getting a very good dig-to-kill percentage."