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 Tuesday, August 14, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


2007 Colorado volleyball outlook
by Linda Poncin, assistant sports information director

Colorado's volleyball team has been a mainstay in the top half of the Big 12 and looks to continue that feat in 2007. The Buffaloes tied for fourth in the league with a 12-8 record and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 16th time in school history. CU returns 10 letter-winners from the 2006 season and has added seven freshman (four recruits and three walk-ons) to the roster.

Here is the position-by-position breakdown for the 2007 Colorado Buffaloes:

Outside Hitter:
Senior Amber Sutherland and sophomore Mallori Gibson started last year for the Buffs, but Sutherland will be taking a redshirt this season, which leaves Colorado with some big shoes to fill as Sutherland was an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection in 2006. Gibson was second on the team with 351 kills. She averaged 3.41 kills per game and hit .178. Gibson was awarded a medical hardship for the 2005 season this past January.

Head Volleyball Coach Pi'i Aiu will be looking to junior Kelsey Loop to step up as she did a couple of times last season. Loop played in seven games and recorded five kills. Emilee Sisco moved to outside hitter from right side after last season and had a good spring. Both Loop and Sisco should help add depth.

The incoming freshmen will also have a chance to earn a starting role on the team.

"Mal comes back from last year's squad and from there we have Kelsey Loop and Emilee Sisco," Aiu said. "Kelsey and Emilee had a nice spring and Kelsey stepped in last year a few times which helped us. Along with freshmen who could step in, we could see some of Kirsten Wicks out there, Rosie Steinhaus, Schylar Edelman and Christan Schaefer. I think that will be determined sometime during the preseason."

Right Side:
Junior Alex Buth recorded 231 kills, the third highest amount on the team, in her first year starting at right side. She averaged 2.14 and hit .191. Buth should produce even better numbers this year, but will receive some competition from freshman Kirsten Wicks and Edelman.

"Kirsten Wicks could end up playing some on the right side as well as Schylur," Aiu said. "I think both of them will push Alex hard. Alex is going to have to play really well to hold off some of the freshmen. There are going to be some really good battles for positions on this team."

Setter:
Ashley Nu'u will be a tough act to follow as CU's first ever AVCA All-American, but sophomore Kaitlyn Burkett is ready for the challenge. Burkett, who was listed as one of prepvolleyball.com's Top 50 in 2005, saw a little action in 2006, including some time against top five opponent, Florida.

Lauren Fanelli, a walk-on freshman, will add depth for Colorado. Fanelli was the setter for one of the best club teams on the east coast and will be pushing Burkett this fall for the starting nod.

"I don't know that you ever replace a kid like Ashley Nu'u," Aiu said. "Obviously Kaitlyn Burkett is going to be playing her position and will bring her own brand of setting and leadership to the position. I think Kaitlyn is more than up to the task.

"Lauren will also push Kaitlyn hard this year. She is a great setter. Lauren is a dynamic athlete and will compete everyday in the gym. Kaitlyn has a spring behind her and with that comes court experience."

Middle Blocker: Colorado only returns one middle from last year's squad that had three. Junior Lauren Schaefer has led CU for the past two seasons in blocks, recording 92 last season (0.93 blocks per game). She also recorded 13 block solos and 79 block assists, both of which were team highs. Schaefer was an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection in 2006 and was one of two Buffs to hit above .300 (.301).

The Buffs will look to the freshman to fill in the remaining spot, but has some good options.

"I think it gives us a little bit of an anchor having Lauren at middle and Mallori at outside," Aiu said. "It gives us some stability as we go around the court. I think Lauren is going to have a big year. She needs to have a big year for us to be good.

"Steinhaus and Edelman will battle for the other middle position. I think we will probably have both of them train in the middle as well as the outside. We could have a lot of young kids playing for us this year."

Defense/Libero:
Senior Kristen Karlik and junior Callie Webster led the Buff's defense last season. Karlik collected 442 digs to lead CU as its starting libero and Webster added 190. 

Freshman Ellen Henry will join senior Therese Viñal and junior Ashley VenHorst for an opportunity to help CU defensively.

"We need Kristen and Callie to play well this year, especially with Sutherland out," Aiu said. "Those two and Sutherland were our ball control last year for the most part and so they are going to have to pick it up a lot. I think Ellen Henry will add to that mix as well. Karlik is going to have a big role on this team in terms of leadership. She is going to have to be the stability on the court."

Schedule:
Colorado has a pretty full non-conference schedule as the Buffs will play nine matches before starting the Big 12 schedule on Sept. 12 against Texas Tech. CU will play Tulane and Furman at the Sugar Bowl Classic to kick of the season Aug. 24 and 25.

Colorado will host its annual Colorado Invitational the following weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Central Florida, UNC-Wilmington and perennial powerhouse California will be making the trip to Boulder. The Buffs will host the Bears to wrap up the weekend with a noon match Sept. 2.

Rounding out the non-conference schedule will be the Colorado State Tournament Sept. 6-8. Besides CSU, the Buffs will face Winthrop and Miami (Ohio).

"I think it (the schedule) looks really good," Aiu said. "We are going to have some battles especially being so young. We are going to have to fight hard to get out wins in the non-conference season. We have two great teams in Cal and CSU and I think we also have some real tough teams to play like UNC-Wilmington, which has been coming on strong in the last few years. Tulane is a good team and has some real experience. Winthrop has been in the NCAA in eight of the last 10 years.

"I think this is an opportunity for us. This is going to be a different team than we have seen in the last four years for sure. I think this is a great opportunity for some young kids to step up and for some of our veterans to have great seasons. I am really excited about this year."


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