MORAGA, Calif. — The lines were down and the nets were up Tuesday as the Saint Mary's women's volleyball team took to the courts of McKeon Pavilion for its first practice of 2017 ahead of the season opener coming in 2 1/2 weeks.
“Always exciting every single year,” said Saint Mary's head coach Rob Browning on the team's first official day. “It's such an anticipated date and you've got so much that you're thinking about with your team and what you can achieve and what you want to do with them, how you're going to help them improve and everything else. So you have this date that's looming and the excitement just builds and builds.”
Most of the day's first practice focused on fundamentals like serve and receive. The Gaels are returning six starters and 10 letterwinners from a team that made a five-win improvement from 2015 to a year ago. Saint Mary's also added three freshmen and four newcomers overall, with Alexsa Parker joining the indoor program after competing in beach volleyball last spring. New assistant coach Kyle Masterson and Volunteer Assistant Jorge Penate have joined the Gaels' staff for this fall.
“We actually felt it last night,” said Browning about the team's readiness for the new season. “We had a team meeting and you could tell, even when they just showed up in the morning in the office and they were hanging out, greeting each other, there was a palpable excitement.”
Saint Mary's has a competitive schedule ahead of them in 2017 with seven NCAA Tournament teams from last year, including the past two NCAA champions (Stanford, Nebraska). The Gaels kick off their 2017 campaign on Aug. 25 at University of Washington's tournament in Seattle. They then travel to the Ameritas Players Challenge at University of Nebraska before opening their home schedule on Sept. 8 versus Fresno State.
Season tickets, single match and group tickets can be purchased on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket office at (925) 631-GoTx.
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