Fresno State outside hitter Zana Bowens brings plenty of experience to the court as one of two seniors on the team. (Khlarissa Agee/The Collegian)
The Fresno State volleyball team opens up its 52nd season with high hopes.
After a disappointing 2014 campaign, the Bulldogs are positive about this year and a fresh slate is what they are asking for.
“We feel good. We’ve been working really hard,” head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. “We’ve solidified a lot of our system stuff.”
Picked to finish ninth in the Mountain West Conference, the Bulldogs won’t let that steer them away from their goals for this season.
“We need to get back into the top third of the conference,” Netherby-Sewell said. “We have every reason to expect we’ll get back up there.”
Coming into the year with one of the youngest rosters in a few years, some of the newest Bulldogs will be counted on to make an instant impact.
“We have a really strong recruiting class,” Netherby-Sewell said. “We’re very young, but we’re feeling good about the chemistry and the way we’ve been playing together.”
Having lost five talented seniors, including three starters, the Bulldogs are in need of someone to fill some big shoes.
“There will definitely be freshmen starting,” Netherby-Sewell said. “Taylor Slover has emerged. She will be one of the top players in this program for a number of years.”
With seven freshmen and only two seniors on the team, the ‘Dogs will try to use this year as a building block for years to come.
In order for the team to get back up into contention for a conference championship, senior outside hitter Zana Bowens will also need to be a key factor in leading a very young squad this year. Bowens led the team last year with 356 kills and was second with 339 digs, two of arguably the most critical stats to a volleyball team’s success.
“Everybody looks up to us as seniors because we’ve been through it but we’re all family. We all work together,” Bowens said.
Bowens is content with her role on the team and knows that the team has to come together as a whole and improve day-by-day.
“We’ve had a pretty good fall camp,” she said. “It will be exciting to finally play against some competition.”
The ‘Dogs will open their 2015 season on the road this weekend at the Western Carolina Tournament with a three-game slate.
Finishing last year with a 1-13 record on the road, a key factor for improvement for this season is improving on that road record.
“The main thing this year is we are healthy,” Netherby-Sewell said. “Last year, we had a bunch of injuries that took us out.”
With hopes of coming home with three wins, the team is looking forward to its home opener on Tuesday, when they welcome the Cal Poly Mustangs into Save Mart Center.