COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M volleyball team will face some of the top collegiate teams in the region during its spring exhibition season, as the Aggies are slated to compete in three tournaments including a nostalgic home tournament to be held at G. Rollie White Coliseum, head coach Laurie Corbelli announced.
A&M, which completed its first week of spring full-team practice on Friday, opens its exhibition schedule at the second annual F.A.S.T. Spring College Tournament, Saturday, March 23 at the F.A.S.T. Complex in Houston.
On Saturday, April 6, A&M will host an all-day tournament at G. Rollie. The Aggies conclude their exhibition season Saturday, April 20 at the Lone Star Classic College Showcase at the Dallas Convention Center Arena.
“The spring tournaments are so important because they resemble competition where you have to prepare yourself to compete,” Corbelli said. “You can’t be so focused so much on how you are doing or breaking down skills. You have to find a way to win with your teammates, and after losing so many starters from last year’s team, we need to compete together to learn our chemistry with our ‘new team’ and to see how each player responds in the different and challenging situations. So these tournaments are really, really valuable for us, this spring maybe more so than the past three or four springs.”
Twenty Division I teams are scheduled to play in the one-day tournament F.A.S.T tournament, including defending national champion Texas, as well as A&M’s former Big 12 Conference foes Baylor and Texas Tech, as well as Southeastern Conference rival LSU.
Other teams slated to participate are Central Arkansas, Houston, Louisiana, Montana, North Texas, Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, Stephen F. Austin, TCU, UTPA, UTSA, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tulane and Wichita State.
“We are fortunate to be in a strong regional area of the country for collegiate volleyball,” Corbelli said. “The NCAA mandates that teams have to be within driving distance for the spring tournaments, so being in this region of strong collegiate volleyball in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas, it allows a lot of different teams to gather in the spring and be able to compete at a level that will make a difference for us, so we are really fortunate about that. It’s important that we play great teams and we have a lot of people coming hard at us so that we can learn and see how this team is going to respond.”
The Aggies will welcome Rice, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State and UTSA to College Station on April 6 for what likely will be the last competition to be held at G. Rollie before its impending demolition. Genny (Wood) Volpe, who played for the Aggies from 1990-93, and Laura (Neugebauer) Groff, who was an assistant coach at A&M in 1991 and 1992 and also frequented the “Holler House” during her playing days at Texas, will be in attendance as the head coaches at Rice and UTSA, respectively.
“It will be a fun day of non-stop volleyball with some of the best players in Texas,” Corbelli said. “It also will be a chance for us to reminisce and say goodbye to G. Rollie. It served us well for many, many years and for many great victories, and I know that many of my former players are really sad that G. Rollie is going away.”
The Aggies conclude their spring season Saturday, April 20 at the Lone Star Classic College Showcase at the Dallas Convention Center Arena. Teams participating in the 16-team tournament are Angelo State, Baylor, Dallas Baptist, Kansas State, LSU, Missouri State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist, Ole Miss, Southern Nazarene, Texas, TCU, Texas State, Texas Tech and Texas Wesleyan.
Corbelli, who is entering her 21st season as head coach of the Aggies, returns only two starters – seniors-to-be Allie Sawatzky (setter) and Heather Reynolds (outside hitter) – from the 2012 team that won the Southeastern Conference Western Division and finished 25-6 after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Championship. She is needing to replace four of last year’s starters: AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans Alisia Kastmo (opposite hitter) and Lindsey Miller, a middle blocker who started every match during her four-year career, Tori Mellinger (outside hitter) and Stephanie Minnerly (middle blocker), as well as Megan Pendergast, who was the designated libero in every match last season.
In addition to Sawatzky and Reynolds, Corbelli welcomes the return of four other experienced upperclassmen and a plethora of young, versatile talent, as well as the addition of newcomer Victoria Arenas, a libero who graduated high school early and enrolled at A&M in January.
“We are going to be using a lot of spring drills to look at who will be filling those vacant positions,” Corbelli said. “While we feel pretty confident that we’ve got our middles pretty much glued to training in the middle, we have other players who are very versatile and interchangeable. We have to really work hard to make sure we at least know the primary position for our outsides, whether it be on the left side or the right side. We must determine where they are going to focus and what will be their primary position, so we have a lot of work to do in our limited time this spring. It is an incredibly important time of year.”
2013 Texas A&M Volleyball Spring Schedule:
F.A.S.T. Spring College Tournament
Texas A&M Spring Invitational
G. Rollie White Coliseum
Lone Star Classic College Showcase
Dallas Convention Center