UCA had three players represented on Aug. 1 in the selection of the Southland Conference preseason All-Conference volleyball teams: senior Megan Nash, junior Samantha Anderson, and junior Haley Tippett.
Nash was named to the first team, while Anderson and Tippett were named to the second team.
For players such as Nash, the recognition is appreciated, but dims in comparison with the ultimate goal.
“It feels good to be recognized, but at the same time the preseason stats aren’t important to me,” Nash said. “Anything can happen and change throughout the season, and all that matters is the team as a whole and the mindset of winning the championship.”
In 2016, Nash averaged 1.14 blocks per set and had nine double-doubles during the season. She was also named to the All-Southland Conference first team for the 2016 season.
Anderson averaged 2.67 kills per set last season, second-best on the team, only behind Tippett.
According to ucasports.com, she had ten or more kills in 15 matches and averaged 4.62 kills and 1 block per set in the Southland Conference tournament last year.
Outside hitter Tippett led the Bears in total kills with 292 and 2.81 kills per set, with 31 service aces.
She was also effective on defense, as she finished second in total digs for UCA with 327 and digs per set with 3.14. She had 13 double-doubles and one triple-double in 2016.
These players have become leaders for the team through their success. With Nash being the only senior on the squad, she wants to lead by her actions.
“I try to lead by example,” Nash said. “Younger players look up to everything you do and say, so physically showing them how we act and the standard of the program is important.”
Though the team is young, the players have seen growth in the team throughout the course of the off-season.
“We have grown with experience,” Nash said. “We are still a young team, with me as the only senior, but the juniors and sophomores have a few years under their belts and that makes a big difference.”
These three Bears especially played with intensity in 2016, and are just as focused for 2017, partly because of the opportunity to play with the same group of players again.
Only one player from last year’s squad is gone this year: graduate Rachel Sharp.
“We’ve been working our butts off for seven months to get back to this time of year,” Anderson said. “This is our favorite time of year, and I just get excited to be back out on the court and feel the camaraderie within the team.”