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Volleyball aims for a strong return

By Brian Achatz

“Our returning players make a very strong core of this team. This is one of the most talented teams I have ever played on.” – Lindsay Homme Senior middle hitter

The end of the season was bitter for last year’s University of West Florida volleyball team.

After losing to Christian Brothers in the regional tournament, the Argonauts returned to UWF for the national tournament and proceeded to watch Tampa play Concordia-St. Paul for the national title. UWF was the only team to beat both Tampa and Concordia during the regular season.

Of the 19 members of the 2013 UWF team, 11 remember that bitter feeling and are working to avoid a repeat.

The Argos have two former Gulf South Conference players of the year returning to the team in junior Autumn Duyn and senior Lindsay Homme. Duyn, the recipient of the 2012 GSC Player of the Year Award, led the Argos with 351 total kills and 3.6 digs per set last season. Homme totaled 297 kills, was third on the team in blocks per game with .64 per set and is one of five seniors on the team this year.

“Our returning players make a very strong core of this team,” Homme said. “This is one of the most talented teams I have ever played on.”

The Argos roster is full of healthy competition for playing time with seven freshmen and one transfer student looking to establish their roles on the team. Junior Shelby Smith, a transfer from Hillsborough Community College, was third in total points (357.5) for Hillsborough last season.

“All of them can contribute majorly,” Homme said. “I think there is a spot for each of them on the court.”

Senior Abby Timmer is listed as right-side hitter and middle blocker for the upcoming season but said she has played every position in her time at UWF. Timmer also acknowledges that this is the deepest team she has been a part of at UWF.

“Coach (Wolter) did that for a reason. She wanted to bring in a big class of freshmen so they could learn and understand how we run things in this program,” Timmer said.

Four-time GSC Coach of the Year Melissa Wolter is entering her 10th season at UWF with an overall record of 214-80 since arriving in 2003. Wolter is primarily responsible for the rise of UWF volleyball.

“It’s easy to respect a coach who you know is right,” Timmer said. “She really focuses on mental toughness and making us a good person inside and out.”

The Argonauts open the season at home Sept. 6 at 11:30 a.m. against Missouri University of Science and Technology at the UWF Opening Weekend Tournament. The Argos have five regular-season opponents ranked in the NCAA preseason top 25, including No. 4 Minnesota Duluth.

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Fall sports teams carry momentum

The University of West Florida baseball team received national championship rings for its championship last June during their alumni weekend. The team set the standard for success for UWF sports and motivated the fall sports teams going in to the fall season.

The question then became, which team could do it next?

So far, the fall sports teams have continued to be successful, but national title hopes have seemed to slip away. The goal has become to continue dominating the Gulf South Conference and simply make it to national tournaments.

The biggest surprise thus far has been the women’s cross country team, which won its first Gulf South Conference Championship since 1996.

The men’s team finished second for its second consecutive season.

The men were ranked second in the NCAA South Region by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and the women were ranked third.

Simply making it to the national race would be a huge stepping-stone for the program, and they seem to have a legitimate chance this season.

The volleyball team is leading the charge for the next GSC championship, sitting on top of the conference standings at 18-8 overall and 10-0 in the conference.

The team had a rough start to the season, falling to 2-6 in the season’s opening tournaments.  However, after a 12-game winning streak halted only by a loss to No. 2 Tampa, UWF received votes in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

The team should be creeping back into the top 25 and could make a run to another national championship appearance.

The men’s soccer team is still in the running— sitting at second in the GSC standings with a 3-1 record in the conference.

The women are tied at second place in the standings at 5-1. Just two seasons ago, the team made it to the final four at nationals.

Both teams were picked to win the conference in the preseason with the men looking for their fifth consecutive title and the women looking for their eighth.

If the teams can live up to their expectations then they both have shots at nationals. Maybe the strongest hope for another national championship is the men’s golf team, which won two of its four fall tournaments.

The Argos finished third and fifth in the other two tournaments after holding their own against Division I opponents.  The team defeated D-I schools such as Michigan State, Georgetown, and Texas Christian University.

They were ranked No. 7 in D-II earlier in the season, and should be moving up in the polls with their recent success.

Only time will tell whether the fall sports can follow in the baseball team’s footsteps, but the momentum is still going strong.

Chris Elkins
Sports Editor 

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