Aug. 10, 2011
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By Sarah Tarasewicz
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The 2011 UCF volleyball season officially got underway this week as fourth-year head coach Todd Dagenais' Knights opened preseason camp at The Venue at UCF on Tuesday. The squad participated in its first practice of the day at 8:30 a.m., before returning to the court for its second practice at 3 p.m.
"I am really truly excited about the energy that has come in, and the athletic physicality is really at a fun level," Dagenais said. "We are playing pretty high over the net right now, and as a coaching staff you can do a lot when you are dealing with that kind of athleticism. The team worked hard over the summer to put themselves in a situation to come in like this, and the young players are coming in and making a huge impact right away."
The two-week training camp will see the Black and Gold participating in twice-daily practices, before concluding camp with the Knights vs. Alumni match which is scheduled for Aug. 20, an event that is new to preseason training camp this year. The squad will also host its annual Black and Gold match on Aug. 17.
"We decided that this first week isn't going to be about position competition or stats or really anything like that," Dagenais said. "It's going to be more about learning your position, learning the nuances of your position and how your position relates to the position next to you.
"I've asked for the older players to be patient with that and to use it as a refresher course, because it is really for all the players that haven't had a lot of playing experience."
The four newcomers that made their UCF debut in preseason training camp included Kaye-Alese Green (MB - Jacksonville, Fla.), Kayla Keller (OH - San Antonio, Texas), Ashley Gialenios (MB - Johns Creek, Ga.) and Delaina Sarden (MB - Lawrenceville, Ga.).
"Kayla is picking up right where she left off in the spring, and Ashley has already come in and surprised us with the velocity on her attacks. Of course, Delaina is just getting better and better by the drill and Kaye is really starting to shine after coming off of her injury. That's four bodies on the floor that we didn't have last year and its really been fun to watch the athletic ability of the newcomers."
UCF returns 10 players from its 2010 roster this season, including senior Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ont.) and juniors Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ont.), Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas), Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) and Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.). The five some will be looked upon to lead the squad in 2011.
The second week of training camp will see Dagenais and his staff showing the squad how the individual skills they learned in week one come together on the floor.
"Next week we will still continue with the teaching, but it's going to be more systems," Dagenais said. "So, whereas this week is all about individual skills, next week is going to be more about how those individual skills work together in a system. Then we'll start competing for some positions by the middle to end of the next week, which then sets us up for our third week, which is really competition for positions and getting ready to play South Alabama."
The Knights open the 2011 season Aug. 26-27 when they host the Courtyard by Marriott/UCF Classic at The Venue at UCF. During the event, UCF will take on South Alabama, Michigan State and North Florida.