WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Fuelling leads Ball State into 2014 season
Experience is difficult to replace.
The Ball State women's volleyball team comes into this season following a 24-8 campaign in 2013-14. The team lost five seniors to graduation, all of which were starters on last season's team.
Despite the fact that the team will miss the leadership of those seniors, head coach Steve Shondell understands that there is still much to look forward to in the future.
"The good news is that we've got this team for the next two years," he said. "We have time to develop into the kind of team that we are capable of becoming."
Last season, the team used a nine-player rotation, which will help to lessen the blow of losing five seniors.
"We have four girls returning that played a lot of volleyball for us," Shondell said. "That is enough experience on the floor to allow you to at least come out and compete early with good competition."
One of those returning players is junior outside hitter Alex Fuelling.
Fuelling was the only non-senior starter on last season's team.
Still, she led the team with 350 kills while also posting a .228 attack percentage.
Fuelling, who became one of the most successful outside hitters in the Mid-American Conference last season, said she isn't worried about the new starters stepping up.
"I don't think it will be much different," Fuelling said. "In practice, I've played with them before and on and off the court we are super close. … I'm trusting them, and I know they trust me."
While the 2013-14 season was successful, it did not end as planned. The Cardinals were eliminated in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
Being a key component on last year's team, Fuelling said there is extra motivation to have a good season based on last year.
"We didn't end how we wanted it to, and I think kind of getting our redemption for what happened last year is the big goal for us," she said.
Shondell said he is looking forward to how the team gels during the season.
While there may be some growing pains in the beginning, this younger, less-experienced core will have to be ready to step in and fill the void left by the seniors.
"I'm not going to say right off the bat that we are going to replace those girls, but we are going to do the best we can to try … and eventually, I think we can be a really good team," Shondell said.