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It takes a special player to be named team captain as a sophmore. Sheena Werling has earned that accolade on OU's volleyball squad by improving everyday since her red shirt season in 2001.
Werling started her career at OU on the sideline waiting for medical clearance. The majority of the 2001 season was spent barely picking up a volleyball, let a lone hammering home kills. In fact she only practiced once during her redshirt year the last practice of the season. Since that year Werling has spent every moment of every spring and summer sharpening her skills.
Through a strong work ethic, Werling has made herself into one of the few players Coach Mahi sees as invaluable. Since then the career-highs have been tumbling for the
Werling currently ranks just outside the Big 12 top-10 in service aces with 0.35 average, after spending the first three weeks ranked as high as No. 5. Werling also ranks second on the team, behind freshman Joanna Schmitt, with 3.02 kills per game.
"I've made my goal this year to be a more consistent hitter," said Werling. "I've been really satisfied with the results and know that my statistical improvement is due to the off-season work I've been putting in."
One of the differences in the summer workouts that keyed her improvement was playing sand volleyball. Werling spent the summer playing constantly at courts here in
"Sand volleyball has been a big part of my personal success this year," said Werling. "When you play doubles in sand you learn to see the court better, especially the block. The experience has really helped me read other people's tendencies, which has made me a much better player."
The sand volleyball play also increased the stamina of one of the Sooners most physically fit players.
"You have to be in good shape to play sand volleyball," said Werling. "There is a lot of court to cover for just two people and the outside elements have to be taken into account."
Being named captain of such a young team took Werling by surprise at first, but she has come to relish the role.
"The team has been adjusting really well to seeing me as a leader," said Werling. "Even though I'm only a sophomore, I've been with the program for three years and I feel I have a lot experience the young girls can relate to."
The Sooner newcomers have helped this year's team get off to an 8-7 record and have given the team high hopes for the conference season.
"Each test our freshmen have been given, they have passed with flying colors," stated Werling. "The freshmen are really calm under pressure and we have full confidence that they will be able to handle any crowd in the Big 12."
As a team captain Werling can see nothing but a bright future for the Sooner program. As a sophomore, she will have two more years of playing with a lot of the same teammates.
"Hopefully these freshmen have a great spring and learn a lot," said Werling. "The summer is important as well. Hopefully a lot of the girls will stick around so we can continue to grow as a team."
The off-season workouts have been a huge part of Werling's success and if the young Sooners follow the examples of their captain, the future looks brighter than the present.
"The future of the program is in good hands," stated Werling. "Our outstanding freshmen will only get better. I think we are going to be a very successful team for years to come."