2001 Season Outlook
As Wake Forest head volleyball coach Valorie Baker gears up for the 2001 season, she has a lot to be excited about. Nine letterwinners and four starters return from a squad that finished with a 21-9 record and a third place finish in the ACC last year. Beginning her sixth season with the Demon Deacon program and her second year at the helm, Baker can't help but feel like the experience possessed by her returning veterans, plus the added talent of her newcomers, makes a deadly squadron of netters.
"I am extremely, extremely excited about this season," said Baker. "Our incoming freshman class is really talented. They are very strong and will push our team with high levels of energy."
Headlining the Demon Deacons' attack is six-foot senior outside hitter, Trina Maso de Moya, the 2000 ACC Player of the Year. Surrounding Maso de Moya is plenty of firepower, including junior right side hitter Amanda Tiller, sophomore outside hitters Sara Beth DeLisle, Katy de Roeck, Ashley Fisher and freshman outside hitter Valerie Rydberg.
"Our strength and experience will come from outside hitting," said Baker. "We will look to them as a strong offensive threat. Our middle blockers have traditionally contributed a great deal and they will continue to look in that direction."
Leading the middle blockers is 6-1 senior Margaret Davidson, who earned second team All-ACC honors last season. The up-and-coming trio of middle blockers, sophomore Jessica Hauff and freshmen Morgan Havig and Kim Stern will join Davidson up front.
"We have a tremendous amount of depth defensively," said Baker. "Their tenacity on the court, willingness and drive will enable us to be a strong defensive team."
Baker feels comfortable with the offense and defense, but instills even more confidence in the starting setter, Ashlee Phillips.
"I am very confident with Ashlee taking the team this year," said Baker. "She has a year of experience under her belt. Her drive to win, now coupled with experience will make her one of the top setters in the conference and give our team the experience needed to take us to the next level."
Despite losing two starters from last year's team to graduation, Baker senses that Wake Forest will grow back stronger, due to the amount of playing time dispersed amongst the freshman last year and the experience garnered henceforth.
"The experience gained by our freshmen during their first year will compensate above and beyond the loss of the two seniors," Baker said. "Those two are not easy to replace, but we should be able to fill in those holes nicely."
Another hole that Baker would like to fill this season is the Demon Deacon's preseason ranking in the ACC Coaches Poll. Despite finishing third in the ACC last year, Wake Forest slipped to fourth in this year's preseason poll.
"I feel like that decision is based on our loss in the ACC Tournament last year," Baker said. "I feel like we're better than several teams ranked ahead of us, but on the other hand we'll enjoy the opportunity to surprise some people as we move up."
The first round loss in the 2000 ACC Tournament is still a sore subject with Baker and one that is still fresh on the minds of the rest of the team as well.
"Our main goal this season is to improve on our performance at the ACC Tournament," said Baker. "We had a good year last season, but we had a disappointing end. That automatically gears your focus towards the next season and improving the finish. So we are setting out to win the ACC and receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament this season."
"This is my first recruiting class here and it is really emotional for me," said Baker. "This class was kind of the turning point for our program. They had a big impact as far as setting our program into the upper tier of our conference. Those girls still have unfinished business. They set out as freshmen to win the ACC and they have one year left."
Adding a booster shot of energy and talent, is the new freshmen crop. This group of newcomers looks to not only help Wake Forest down the road, but along the way as well.
"By position I feel this is a strong class," said Baker. "I am very comfortable with this class. High caliber programs recruited several of them. They should contribute."
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