Preview: Volleyball Ready to Defend USA South Crown

Preview: Volleyball Ready to Defend USA South Crown

Related: Season Guide | Schedule | Roster

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Coming off a historical season in 2015, the Covenant volleyball team is ready to defend its USA South title. Under fourth-year head coach Joanna Ehman, the Lady Scots return four starters, and nine players overall, in addition to bringing in a talented recruiting class.

The season opens this weekend at the Berry Invitational in Rome, Ga. Covenant plays Millsaps on Friday at 7 p.m. before playing Washington & Lee (10:30 a.m.) and host Berry (1 p.m.) on Saturday.

After reaching the top of the USA South last season, Ehman is confident in her team's ability to stay motivated and make a strong run towards another NCAA Tournament berth this year.

"The team is showing a lot of drive and motivation towards proving that last year wasn't a fluke," said Ehman, who is 67-34 overall through her first three years as head coach. "We also weren't thrilled with how we played in the NCAA Tournament last year, so the players are really motivated to get back to that point and want to go further this year."

Returners:

Covenant returns much of the core group of players that led the Lady Scots in 2015. In their junior year now, twin sisters Ginny Moore and Schuyler Moore have proven to be two of the best players in the conference and look to continue their strong play for a third straight year. Both players were first team All-USA South honorees last year, while Ginny was the conference tournament MVP.

"Ginny and Schuyler should have another good year," Ehman said. "They are part of that group that is really motivated to get back to the NCAA Tournament again this year."

Two other starters in junior Jessica Seehorn and senior Morgan Opgenorth also return. Seehorn played in 30 matches last year, while Opgenorth was a presence in the front row as she totaled 63 total blocks in her first year of collegiate volleyball.

"Jessica is the epitome of a utility player and wants to do whatever she needs to help the team," Ehman said. "And Morgan was very good for us last year and I'm excited to see her get even better this year."

Also returning along the front row are sophomores Hannah Harris and Olivia Becker. Both players were role players a year ago, but Ehman expects both to get more opportunities this season. Fellow sophomore Hannah Stewart took over the libero position late in the year in 2015 and played exceptionally well during the USA South and NCAA tournaments and will vie for that spot once again this year.

Seniors Caroline McLeod and Mariah Corney round out the returning group and have been contributors throughout their careers.

Newcomers:

Ehman brought in five freshmen in her recruiting class and all five could make immediate impacts for the program. Emily Moore (Fort Myers, Fla./Evangelical Christian), the younger sister of Ginny Moore and Schuyler Moore, joins Lindsey Stephens (Durham, N.C./Homeschool), Allie Jakes (Maitland, Fla./Orangewood Christian), Chloe Storm (Colorado Springs, Colo./The Classical Academy) and Haley Taylor (DeLand, Fla./Homeschool) as the 2016 recruiting class.

"I'm excited to see them challenge the returners," Ehman said of her freshmen class. "We have a lot of depth with this class. Four of the five can play in the front row and will challenge for playing time. Emily can also play anywhere on the court, is a heady player and does whatever the team needs."

Having Emily Moore join her sisters provides a unique dynamic for the team and the family. It will be the first time that all three of them have played together on the same team. "I'm excited to have the three of them together and they're excited about the opportunity as well," Ehman added.

Overall:

The schedule is a tough one for the program. Covenant will be on the road for the entire month of September before opening up the home slate on Oct. 8 against USA South foe Salem and a non-conference match with perennial power Emory. The Lady Scots will also host Hendrix on Oct. 13 in a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament first round match. Hendrix advanced to the NCAA Tournament Final Four a season ago.

"Having Emory and Hendrix come here is a compliment to the program," Ehman said. "It shows that we've established ourselves as a worthy opponent. We always enjoy going to Emory, and the players are excited about having them come up here."

Ehman believes that the tough September schedule, in which Covenant will play in tournaments three straight weekends, along with Emory and Hendrix will provide a substantial test for the team as it strives to get back to the top of the USA South. 

"Those early tournaments will prepare us well for the stiff competition we might face later on in the season and to have the confidence knowing that we can compete with some of the best in the nation," Ehman added.

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