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CEDAR CITY, Utah - Southern Utah University volleyball will open its 2013 season this weekend when the Thunderbirds travel to Mobile, Ala. and face Georgia Southern, South Alabama and Tennessee State in the Jaguar Invite.
The trip will mark the first time that the volleyball team has made the trip to Yellowhammer State, but marks the second season in a row that the team will be playing in Dixie after competing at a tournament hosted by Savannah State (Ga.) last season.
Southern Utah will open the tournament against Georgia State on Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. (MT) and will wrap up the competition with matches against South Alabama and Tennessee State on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (MT), respectively. Live stats for all games are anticipated to be available online at www.suutbirds.com. A live video stream of the South Alabama match will also be available online at www.suutbirds.com.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Southern Utah University will open the 2013 season without four-year starters Analaine Mailoto and Cashaana Renfro at outside hitter and middle blocker who were both part of SUU’s first signing class in 2008.
New Year, New Libero
For the fifth consecutive season, Southern Utah University will have a new libero as it opens the 2013 season.
Setting the Table
SUU will also have a new setter after projected starter Gabi Mirand suffered a knee injury in the spring. In her place will be a trio of freshmen competing for the starting spot.
Quick Review of 2012
Southern Utah University left the Summit League and joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012, finishing the year with an overall record of 12-20 and an 8-12 mark in conference play. The Thunderbirds finished tied for seventh in the league, missing the conference tournament by one game. Seniors Analaine Mailoto and Cashaana Renfro earned all-Big Sky Conference honorable mention accolades.
Freshman Sariah Pelaez is the younger sister of SUU’s all-time leader in kills Analaine (Pelaez) Mailoto, but will be looking to secure her own records, playing as a defensive specialist.
Fellow freshman Joanna Christenson’s brother is the starting setter for USC’s men’s team.
Southern Utah will to looking to snap a two-match losing streak in season-openers on Friday after losses to Utah and Drake the past two seasons. SUU had been undefeated in season-openers since its return in 2009 with wins over Delaware State (2009) and Murray State (2010).
Southern Utah could have as many as three freshmen in the starting lineup this weekend.
Scouting Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern finished the 2012 season with an overall record of 25-7, including a 15-1 mark in the Southern Conference to win the league’s South Division. The Eagles tallied 1740 kills during the year, averaging 14.03 per set and carried a .241 hitting percentage. GSU also recorded 241.0 blocks last season, averaging 1.94 per set.
Georgia Southern was picked second this season in the Southern Conference preseason coaches poll.
Scouting South Alabama
South Alabama finished the 2012 season with an overall record of 13-17, including a 6-9 mark in the Sun Belt Conference. The Jaguars totaled 1475 kills, averaging 12.7 kills per set while carrying a .205 attacking percentage. USA was out-blocked during the year 259.0 to 214.0, averaging just 1.8 blocks per set.
South Alabama was picked eighth this season in the Sun Belt preseason coaches poll.
Scouting Tennessee State
Tennessee State finished 2012 with an overall record of 18-14, including a 10-6 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Tigers totaled 1527 kills, averaging 12.9 per set while recording a .182 hitting percentage. TSU only recorded 169.0 blocks last year, averaging 1.4 per set.
Tennessee State has been picked third this season in the East Division of the Ohio Valley Conference preseason coaches poll.