SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 22, 2013) -- Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) women's volleyball team, led by Head Coach Mark Lee, is getting ready for another competitive year as preseason is set to start on Aug. 23. The Saints will host NCAA Division II St. Mary's University for a scrimmage.
The Saints finished the 2012 season in fourth place in the Red River Athletic Conference and suffered a tough loss in the conference tournament quarterfinals against Texas Wesleyan University. The Saints fought hard, but lost 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 27-25).
According to Lee, last year's team was a very young team that had a season filled with close games that resulted in a lot of tough losses. He hopes that his returning players learned a lot from previous mistakes and will be able to turn tight games into victories this year.
"I feel confident that the players returning to the team will come back with their heads in the right place," Lee explained.
The Saints lost four seniors from last year, and have no returning players entering their senior year. Instead, the Saints will have three returning juniors in Suzie Pena, a 5'4" defensive specialist, who last year received the Champions of Character Award; Bryttany Willoughby, a 5'8" defensive specialist, who also received the Champions of Character Award along with an All-Conference Honorable Mention; and Vanessa Ortega, a 5'6" setter from El Paso, Texas.
Returning sophomores include Alysha Blanco, a 6'0" outside hitter from El Paso, Texas; Sydney Herrera, a 5'11" middle blocker from Harlingen, Texas; Stephanie Rubio, a 5'6" outside hitter from San Antonio; and Gloriana Villarreal, a 5'8" outside hitter from Brownsville, Texas.
Along with the seven returners, another 11 new players will be added to the Saints' roster. Lee describes the group of incoming student-athletes as the most talented one in the program's history. He also points out that the team will have a great mix of returning players and incoming players who hopefully can make the team successful.
New freshmen include Morgan Bradley, a 5'9" defensive specialist from Cypress, Texas; Audrey Contreras, a 5'2" defensive specialist from McAllen, Texas; Kendall Groff, a 5'9" right side hitter from Helotes, Texas; Brittany Martinez, a 5'2" libero from El Paso, Texas; Brianna Murray, a 5'9" outside hitter from Houston; Stephanie Neal, a 5'9" outside hitter from El Paso, Texas; Janelle Solis, a 5'2" setter from San Antonio; Raven Swain, a 5'10" outside hitter from Pflugerville, Texas; Jessica Walaski, a 6'0" middle blocker from San Antonio; and Alexandra Wilborn, a 5'3" libero from San Antonio; and Korrine Wood, a 6'2" right side middle blocker from Schertz, Texas.
Lee is also adding two new graduate assistant coaches -- Norma Fraga and Daniella Vidaurri -- to his coaching staff. Fraga played four years for the Saints and graduated this past May with a Bachelor of Business in Accounting. Fraga will coach while she pursues her master's degree in accounting at OLLU.
"It will be great to have Norma helping us," Lee stated. "She's been through the program and will definitely be helpful for the younger players."
Vidaurri is a San Antonio native and a Southwest High School graduate. She played four years for NCAA DII volleyball at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
"Daniella has played at a high level and will bring in a lot off playing experience," Lee explained. "She helped us in the spring already and the players seemed to really like her."
Returning as assistant coach will be Sarah Lindsay. Lindsay began coaching for the Saints last season after also playing four years for OLLU. She was a member of the inaugural team that kicked off athletics in 2007.
This year, the Red River Athletic Conference has lost two teams that left to join the Sooner Athletic Conference -- Texas Wesleyan University and Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
The first match of the season for the Saints will be played Aug. 30 against Schreiner University -- an NCAA Div. III school from Kerrville, Texas. Three days later, the Saints host Loyola University for this year's home opener.
The Saints will start the regular season with a home match on Aug. 30 against Schreiner University, an NCAA Division III team. On Sept. 2, the team will host Loyola University, and on Sept. 4, the Saints will host Laredo College in a scrimmage game.
OLLU will then head out to participate in the Texas Wesleyan University Tournament Sept. 7-8. On Sept. 13, the Saints begin their conference schedule on the road against Texas College. Their first conference home match is on Sept. 27 against the University of the Southwest at 6 p.m.
All home matches will be broadcast live with play-by-play action provided by Michael Thompson, television studio technician at OLLU. In addition, live stats will be available for all home matches. Links will be available on the Saints web site, and on the official Saints social media sites, including Twitter (OLLUSaints), Facebook (OLLUSaintsAthletics) and Instragram (olluniversity_saints).