Aug. 17, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. -- One week and 10 practices into the 2005 season, Northwestern is making steady progress with a much more experienced squad than a first glance at the roster might suggest.
As one of only two seniors on an underclassman-filled squad, Lizzie Carlson understands what preseason practice is all about.
"(As seniors) we've been through this so many times," says Carlson after the team's fifth day of practice. "It's always a long process heading into the first match. But, we know a lot of the freshmen will be playing for us -- so as a team we need this time to get really comfortable with each other.
That process has been a very focused one for NU's three freshmen, who are able to look up to a sophomore class that saw more playing time as freshmen last season than nearly any other group of newcomers in the nation.
"This is so much better than high school," freshman Chelsy Hyser says. "It's so much more fast-paced. Slowly but surely I think I'm getting used to it. In high school everyone has other agendas and other sports. Right now, all I have to do is focus on volleyball -- and I like that."
Head coach Keylor Chan sees the youthful exuberance of his underclassmen helping to push the pace of preseason practice with just 10 days to go until the season-opener against UW-Green Bay.
"We are still very young which is good," says Chan. "They need to make a lot of progress and gain valuable experience, but they are doing it rapidly now. Our sophomores played a lot as freshmen, more than most sophomores in the nation."
Competition among team members has already reached a strong level.
"We are a pretty deep team," says Chan. "We have a lot of players able to play multiple positions now, which gives us depth. It makes this week more competitive, which makes coaching easier. The girls are motivated knowing they can't count on starting spots."
With the loss of only two seniors last year, Chan knew he could count on depth heading into this week. But, when one of the players lost is NU's all-time assist leader Drew Robertson, finding a replacement at setter is no easy task and has been a big focus for Chan during preseason.
"Both setters have a done great job," Chan says. "They have come a long way in just five days of camp. Stephanie Jurivich and Lauren Greenwood have really stepped up, which is great to see, knowing it was a question mark coming in."
Chan says he hopes to fully implement a new offensive system in the remaining practice time before the Phoenix come to Welsh-Ryan Arena Aug. 27. The first serve of 2005 is slated for 7 p.m.