HANCEVILLE, ALA. – As Wallace State volleyball coach Randy Daniel approaches his 10th season with the program, he’s in awe of how fast his time in Hanceville has zipped by.
“It seems like yesterday I started coaching here. It goes by so quickly when you’re having fun and trying to figure out how to continue to build upon the success we’ve enjoyed,” Daniel said. “The more you win, the better opportunities you have to remain successful. The history and tradition of this program continues to sell itself.”
Wallace State volleyball has indeed been successful under Daniel’s guidance. The 19th-ranked Lions enter the 2016 season as the seven-time defending Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) champions in addition to winning eight regular season titles in a row.
Wallace State opens the season at home Tuesday with an exhibition match against Shorter University at 6 p.m. The Lions travel to Faulkner State on Thursday for their conference opener before returning home Saturday to host UAH and UNA in an exhibition tri-match.
The Lions return six sophomores to the fold, including All-Region performers Kelsea Bivins, August Newberry and Cierra Davis, and two sophomore transfers.
“We’ve had a great fall so far. It’s been one of the best preseason camps I can remember, and I’m very pleased with the progress our team has made. They’ve worked really hard and done everything I’ve asked them to do. I’m excited about their potential because of that. There seems to be leaders on and off the court,” said Daniel, who has a 332-76 career record at Wallace State as the all-time winningest coach.
Bivins and Davis will anchor the outside hitter position after both were 2nd-team All-ACCC selections last season. Bivins, listed at 6 feet, compiled 434 kills and 234 digs. Davis, a Sparkman High grad, added 290 kills and 270 digs.
Newberry, also a 2nd-team All-ACCC selection, returns at libero after racking up a team-high 642 digs last season, when Wallace State finished with a 39-8 record and made its seventh straight NJCAA Division I national tournament appearance and a state-best 15th overall.
“Kelsea, Cierra and August were significant contributors for us last season. I expect them to be much better as sophomores. They have been really good for us in fall practice so far and very consistent,” Daniel said. “All of the sophomores have improved tremendously.”
Bivins and Newberry are both Thompson High graduates in addition to sophomore setter Tara Miller, who was second on the team last season with 443 assists.
MaKenzie Bearden and Jamie Pittman, both from Geraldine, also return this season. Bearden had 134 kills and 43 digs as a freshman.
Alicia Charles, a 5-foot-11 middle hitter, and McCall Morrow are the sophomore transfers. Charles had 101 kills and 94 blocks for Lee (Texas) College last season.
“Alicia has a chance to fill a spot in the middle we needed badly. She’ll have a lot of opportunities at the next level if she keeps working hard,” Daniel said.
Among the freshmen, Good Hope graduate Kaylee Maddox, Kati Thomas (Goshen) and Jessica Lucio (Mandeville, La.) should each complement Bivins and Davis on the outside.
Emily Wilson, a freshman from Walker, will provide depth at libero, Abby Borden (Arab) is penciled in as a setter, Macy Smith (Roswell, N.M.) at defensive specialist and Caroline Gann (Carbon Hill) as a right side hitter.
“We are not as tall or as strong defensively in the middle as we’ve been, but I like what we have at other positions. We are deeper at setter and deeper and more talented at outside hitter and for our ball control. I have four or five defensive players that could have easily started on other teams in the past. We have a lot of depth, so I’m happy about that,” Daniel said. “Our schedule is tough. I expect us to get challenged a lot. That’s fine. It makes us better in the long run.”
Charles, Lucio and Smith are the three non-Alabamians on the roster.
“The inquiries I receive from out-of-state players speak to the tradition and respect this program has. We are long way from home for a couple of our players, but they had the desire to seek us out. It means a lot,” Daniel said.
Wallace State will compete in tournaments in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina throughout the regular season. The Lions first four conference matches are on the road. Their home conference opener is Sept. 21 vs. Southern Union.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit http://athletics.wallacestate.edu/
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 256-352-8443 direct
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu