FAIRBORN — Wright State volleyball is in rebuild mode after going 11-18 in 2017, but the team confidence and enthusiasm emanating from McLin Gym is higher than ever.
This will be the debut season for WSU coach Allie Matters, a previous seven-year assistant of a Seton Hall team that had its first NCAA tournament berth in 2014. She made it clear that each player on this year’s Raider squad will have a significant role.
“If I don’t like something, I let the girls know. And if I love something, I let them know that too. Anything that we accomplish in our gym needs to be celebrated, and they need to know about it,” Matters said. “I don’t care if you’re the best player on the court or the loudest person on the bench. I’ll depend on you.”
In the early phases of practice, Matters can sense the team is more than ready to wake up and do its job on the court.
“They were here 10 or 15 days early practicing on their own. They’re in shape, happy and competitive, and the spirit in our gym has a different feel to it,” Matters said. “They’re working hard, but they’re enjoying themselves. I think a lot of them have renewed their love of the game.”
Senior middle blocker Alannah Lemming is also picking up a vibe that suggests the Raiders are in the right mindset at the moment.
“I feel like we’re going to be that team where it’s going to be hard to put a ball down, because our defense will be good,” Lemming said. “We have back row players that won’t let a ball drop and have people who are diving and sliding all over the ground. Practice is like a war zone.”
WSU will have a daunting 12-match road trip, before the Sept. 21 home opener against Milwaukee. Some of the notable non-conference matchups are against two 21-win teams from last year in West Virginia and NC State, and former league foe Valparaiso, a 17-win squad in 2017.
“We’re going to be playing around with different lineups. If that means we start Horizon League and we’re not where we want to be, but we’re ready, that’s all I hope for,” Matters said.
Though the Raiders only have two juniors and seniors on the roster, Matters feels she has six sophomore standouts that will make that less evident.
This experience is most notable for the outside hitter with the third most kills (281) on the team in 2017, Abby Barcus, and middle blocker/right side hitter Teddie Sauer, the second leading WSU blocker (90) last season. Right side hitter Celia Powers should also be noted for appearing in 27 matches as a freshman.
Two upperclassmen who will have key roles include Lemming, who was third on the team in kills (170) and second in blocks (97) during the 2016 campaign, and junior defensive specialist/libero Hannah Colvin with the top tally of digs (235) from last season for any returning Raider. Matters says junior outside hitter Taylor Gibson could have a standout year after a productive summer of conditioning.
“The Horizon League is really scrappy. There are a lot of good liberos and defensive players,” Matters said. “I think we’re going to have good ball control, which is going to allow us to run our offense.”
The freshmen class could impact the team with their aptitude for competitive play, Matters believes. Setter Lainey Stephenson and middle blocker Grace Hauck each played for the successful Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club, while defensive specialist/libero Jenna Story has been a member of the talented Union Volleyball Club in Louisville.
Being an underestimated team is not a deterrent to Matters, and that seems to be the attitude of the players too.
“I’m excited to see how we handle teams and have a different presence on the court than we have in the past,” Lemming said. “I want to prove our point that we’re here and it’s our era.”
WSU will be back on the court to open the regular season in Morgantown, W. Va. against Connecticut on Aug. 24. For more information on the Wright State Raiders go to www.wsuraiders.com.