Roundtable: Weighing in on volleyball in 2016
After a season that did not go as planned in 2015, volleyball will look to turn the tide as a program in 2016. The Cougars will begin their season on Aug. 26 when they take on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the Houston Baptist University tournament.
The sports section staff weighs in on their expectations for how the volleyball team will perform in their upcoming season.
Nicholas Williamson, staff writer:
In previous seasons, the Cougars have displayed the capability to win games, but have not cemented themselves as a dominant program. Coming off a 19-13 overall finish and a 9-11 conference record in 2015, this season will be about surpassing the status of an average team and becoming elite.
There is no lack of leadership entering this season with seniors Hunter Wise and Marisa Guzman, several juniors and experienced transfers. If the team is able to rally around their experience, this season will likely be an improvement from the last.
In their four non-conference tournaments to start the season, the Cougars should be the favorite to win three of them. Capturing two tournament wins early could bode well for conference play.
The Cougars have a travel-heavy schedule to begin their season with four of their six games being away from home. However, this will lighten the load for the end of 2016 when the Cougars play five of their last eight games at home.
Consistency has always been present in this program, but the trouble has been reaching the next level within the conference. I expect the Cougars to take the next step this season.
I predict volleyball will continue to build and finish 2016 with a 12-8 record in the AAC.
Reagan Earnst, sports editor:
Volleyball has their work cut out for them in 2016. Over the last three seasons, the team has hovered around the .500 mark and has failed to excel in American Athletic Conference play.
Last season, the team got off to a hot start by start by going 11-2 through their first 13 games.
Despite their quick start to the season, the team wavered down the stretch as they lost 10 of their last 15 games. Having a more experienced team in 2016 should avoid another late season falter.
The Cougars are scheduled to play in four tournaments before conference play gets rolling, which should provide the team with momentum for their matches against conference foes. Last season, the Cougars thrived in neutral-site games by going 5-1.
Sophomore Brookah Palmer will be an essential part of the Cougars’ success this season. As a freshman, Palmer recorded a team-leading 506 kills with 301 digs and 41 blocks. Her 50 service aces were good for sixth in Houston volleyball history. Palmer’s success will be crucial to the continued improvement of the volleyball team.
Overall, I expect the Cougars to go 13-7 in conference play and make a run at a conference title.
Jonathan Valadez, assistant sports editor:
The Cougars were able to pull off a winning season due to their light non-conference schedule last season. For 2016, the team gets another crack at an “easy” schedule and should finish with a similar 10-2 record in non-conference play.
During conference play last season, the Cougars were able to compete with almost every team. They split the series against seven teams while earning the sweep against Tulane University.
The Cougars have the potential to compete for an American Athletic Conference Championship this season. They will, however, have to play better against the University of Cincinnati, whom the Cougars were swept by in 2015.
Southern Methodist University took the title last season, but lost three of their best players to graduation. This could give the Cougars an edge in their two meetings against the Mustangs.
Although the team graduated five seniors, they bring back three of their best players in sophomores Chenelle Walker and Brookah Palmer, and junior Keandra McCardell. Walker led the team in blocks by nearly 40 last season and Palmer, who was awarded first team honors, led the team in kills. McCardell recorded 12 double-doubles and was the team-leader in assists.
I believe that the Cougars will finish with a winning conference record and a third-place finish.