MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Barry University’s volleyball team believes its potential just scratched the surface last season. Now the Buccaneers are aiming for something bigger in 2013.
The Bucs went 17-13 overall, 9-7 in the Sunshine State Conference to finish fourth last year. They just missed out on a trip to the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
“The entire staff and team learned a great deal from the 2012 season,” Barry coach Steve Hendricks said. “Our goal was to make the NCAA Tournament, and falling just short of it has created a stronger drive and the understanding of just how prepared we need to be for each opponent. We are all very excited and optimistic to get started and improve on last season’s results.”
The Buccaneers open the season Friday at the two-day Ram Rumble at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.V. Barry’s first home match is Friday, Sept. 20 when Palm Beach Atlantic visits Health & Sports Center.
Barry returns seven players from last year’s team, including senior outside hitter Ashley Carrero and sophomore middle blocker Laine Cielena, both of whom were named to the All-SSC Newcomer Team. Carrero is the leading returner in kills, having put away 243 balls a season ago. She reached double figures in kills in 12 matches. Cielena had 214 kills, hit .266 and led the team in blocks with 92 last year. Both were named to separate all-tournament teams in 2012.
“They will each be important players and leaders to the team,” Hendricks said.
The Bucs also bring back junior outside hitter Jayla Trombley and sophomore outside hitter Tashalyn Begon and sophomore middle blocker Kate Dooley. Trombley had 149 kills, 113 digs and 34 blocks, while Begon put away 128 balls and added 26 blocks. Dooley, like Trombley, came on late in the season, finishing with 70 kills and a .298 attack percentage. She had 47 blocks, which is the second most among returners.
Sophomore setter/libero Jasmine Serna led the Buccaneers with 397 digs a year ago, playing primarily in the back row while serving as the backup setter. This year she could get more time in running the offense, along with incoming freshman setter Jennyvette Trinidad. Sophomore defensive specialist Mariana Ruiz also is back in the fold.
“We return a great group of young players who gained a lot of match experience,” Hendricks said. “Our incoming class matches their athleticism and drive.”
Trinidad, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, is one of six freshmen who will begin their Buccaneer careers. Outside Hitter Eva-Lotta Raat enrolled at Barry in the spring after transferring from Marquette, where the 6-foot-2 Pamumaa, Estonia, native was initially recruited. Middle Ivana Didanovic, a 6-foot-3 Belgrade, Serbia, product, gives the Bucs another option in the attacking game. Defensive specialists Kristen Reid, Amanda Brill and Alexandria Wallace will battle for time in the back. Reid and Wallace could also be used in hitting capacities.
“We will have a very competitive gym that will make us better every day,” Hendricks said. “There is competition in each position, and that was a goal for (assistant coach) Katie (McCrath) and I to achieve through recruiting and our spring training. We will have good size at the net and speed in the back row.
“We will have a strong focus on ball control, which started our first day preseason training. We have the athletes and the volleyball IQ to achieve it, but it will take some time to get the needed repetition and familiarity of our system down so that our entire game improves.”
The Bucs are loaded with skilled young talent. They believe the hours they’ve already put in, combined with their enthusiasm, can translate into a successful season.
“We want to be a hard-working and solid ball control team who is fun to watch compete,” Hendricks said. “I’m excited to mesh all the returners with the incoming class. My staff and I are extremely pleased with the heart, athleticism and focus of this year’s roster.”