OU volleyball: Sooners volunteering to hit the ground running
Astrud Reed, The Oklahoma Daily
When the OU volleyball team started its voluntary summer workouts this year, senior outside hitter Morgan Reynolds and junior middle blocker Sallie McLaurin noticed a positive change in the attendance.
Although the official season doesn’t begin until Aug. 24, when the Sooners host the Nike Invitational, and the players usually don’t report to team practice until that same month, this year’s team members — both veterans and underclassmen — found ways to stay together during the offseason.
“This summer has been different than previous ones because pretty much everyone is here and working out three times a week,” Reynolds said. “It’s going to be such a huge benefit to the team because we don’t have to shake the rust off in August like we’ve been used to.”
Reynolds said that in previous years, the Sooners usually spent the first couple practices of the season working on fundamentals and drills to tighten up their game and usually spent some time getting to know the newcomers.
“It’s hard to bring girls right into the program, and we usually have to spend the first couple of weeks working on technique drills,” Reynolds said. “Now, when official practice starts, we can jump right into playing against one another.”
And having the advantage of game-like practices will be important going up against in-state rival Tulsa during the first tournament of the season.
OU exited the 2011 NCAA tournament with a 3-1 loss to Tulsa. But instead of waiting around to face the Golden Hurricane later in the season, OU will get its first crack at redemption in the third game of the 2012 season schedule.
“(Tulsa) beat us last year because we weren’t on top of our game,” McLaurin said. “We want to prove we can bounce back against them and be the better team this year.”
One way the Sooners can improve from last season’s loss is getting some valuable help from this year’s incoming class, McLaurin said.
“The freshmen are all great additions to the team, and they will make immediate contributions,” McLaurin said. “We‘re going to put the best players out on the court in order to perform at our best, and having [freshman] fill some spots will help us do that.”
The 2012 class of nine freshmen is the largest recruitment group in coach Santiago Restrepo’s tenure, and the class also is one of the tallest in the program’s history with six newcomers standing over 6-feet tall.
Having both the size and the availability of several alternates will only help a program that is becoming a perennial returner to the NCAA postseason tournament.
“It’s not just a goal to get to the tournament anymore,” McLaurin said. “It’s a standard we’ve set at OU to keep making it to the postseason, and the way the program is going right now with our summer workouts, we’re just working to maintain that standard.”