ECU volleyball team working hard

Published 5:10 pm Monday, August 18, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Stephanie Turner and Lizzy Bruin leaped high at the net, put their arms together and blocked a spike attempt by assistant coach Brett Johnston, who had been dominant in a recent practice. After Turner and Bruin exchanged high-fives, Turner faced Johnston, mocked a bodybuilding pose and laughed.
It was a light moment during a hard workout in the second session of two-a-days for the East Carolina volleyball team at Minges Coliseum. The players have been putting in several hours at the gym as they get ready for the Aug. 29 season opener at home against East Tennessee State, which kicks off the East Carolina Classic.
Turner, whose 235 kills and 42 service aces were second best on the team last year, is looking to be one of the team leaders this year. The East Amherst, N.Y., native said the Pirates have high goals both on and off the court.
ECU’s volleyball team had a cumulative GPA of 3.5 as every player earned above a 3.0 last year. All 12 ECU players earned individual recognition on the University’s Honor Roll, while seven were selected to either the Chancellor’s List (4.0 GPA) or the Dean’s List (3.5 or higher).
The Pirates have most of their players back from last season with the exception of Kelley Wernert. But that loss is a huge one as Wernert had 627 kills last year and finished as the school’s all-time leader in that category.
Melissa Zentner, a 6-3 junior outside hitter, is looking to take over for Wernert.
While several of the Pirates have looked good in practice, a couple have been sidelined at times because of injury.
Bruin, a 5-11 sophomore middle blocker, had shoulder surgery this summer. Britney Roper, a 6-3 redshirt freshman outside hitter, has been rehabbing after surgery of her own. A swollen knee kept Roper out of practice on Wednesday.
Despite those players, and others, rehabbing throughout the summer, Rushing has been encouraged by the team’s play.
With some players having to sit out certain practices, that makes it difficult on Rushing and on the players.
Rushing obviously wants his Pirates to win as many games as possible. However, he said as long as his players work at achieving four goals, he’s happy.
Trish Monroe, a 5-6 defensive specialist, is the lone senior on this year’s team. She’ll be counted on to make sure her teammates are striving to reach those four goals.
Other key players on this year’s squad include junior setter Hannah Fenker (5-8) and sophomore setter Katie Koop (5-11) , who are battling for a starting spot.
Though they may be newcomers, Rushing expects freshman Amanda Lutzow (5-10 outside hitter) and junior transfer Bobby Jo Stall (5-10 middle blocker) to contribute immediately.
Bruin, who came on strong for the Pirates at the end of last season, is hoping to contribute much more this year.
The Pirates will need to be healthy as they face another tough slate in conference play this year.
Rushing has steered clear of recruiting foreign players.
The Pirates, which also include junior outside hitter Katie Prast, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Erica Banning, sophomore defensive specialist Kylie Gilmore, redshirt freshman defensive specialist Nicole Jones, freshman middle blocker Kelly Derby and freshman middle blocker Briana Fleener, seem to have a strong bond.
Rushing is hoping that bond will help the team on the court this year.