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The Georgetown College volleyball program burst back into national prominence after a 36-6 record and a deep postseason run. Now entering the 2013 season, coach Nick Griffin is making sure his team, dominated by sophomores and juniors, continues the climb and prepares itself for another national tournament run.
"Building the schedule is always challenging," Griffin said. "You have to approach it with balances, while also finding your peak at the right time. We were extremely young this past year, but these young ladies grew up quickly and are ready for more."
The fifth-year coach is making sure the bar is raised by taking on 10 teams ranked in the 2012 postseason Top 25. The Tigers were ranked No. 12 ending the season and could crack into the Top 10 for the 2013 preseason.
"We return a solid core and add three gifted freshmen who are ready to compete," Griffin said. "The key to our season will be how we handle having a target on our backs. The loss of Rebekah Moore and Lindsey Wise to graduation is also significant, but I'm very confident in my senior captains Kathryn Smith and Emily Weber for their leadership and impact on the court."
Georgetown returns two All-Americans in juniors Rachel Eubanks and Caraline Maher. Eubanks was also named the Mid-South Conference Player of the Year. Two-time All-Region performer Allyson Wilbourn gives Griffin another dominant offensive weapon.
Rounding out the junior class are also two vital players in Stephanie Gurren and Mariah Tesarz. Gurren along with sophomore Lindsey Martindale – MSC honorable mention – helped to direct one of the nation's top offenses.
The sophomore class also includes starters Corri Muha – MSC honorable mention – and Kristen Schellhaas along with Lauren Schneidtmiller and Bridgette Allen.
"The staff is excited to have this group back and with practice just around the corner we are all chomping at the bit to see how this freshman class mixes in," Griffin said.
Courtney Grafton and Maddie Kunkel give the Tigers two athletic and experienced backcourt players, while Ashlee Howe comes in as a versatile middle hitter.
"This might be the deepest roster Georgetown has had in some time," Griffin said. "We look forward to all of the competition. We saw how well everyone worked this past year and need the same type of dedication and commitment to the team."
Georgetown will start at the Best Western Classic in Columbia, Mo. This is one of the NAIA's premier opening tournaments, run by Columbia College. Key matches include No. 2 Columbia, No. 6 Hastings and No. 23 Grand View.
Following that is a handful of conference matches with another round of stiff competition in Bourbonnais, Ill. At Olivet Nazarene University's Holiday Inn Express tournament, three of Georgetown's matches are against ranked opponents.
Along with top-notch opponents in the tournaments, the Tigers will face a tough Mid-South Conference slate.
"The MSC showed how far it has come this past season when two teams were represented at the NAIA national championships," Griffin stated. "It's going to be a dog fight every night as the top of the conference returns most of their rosters and the bottom half continue to improve each year."
Things really heat up in the annual Boneyard Brawl. All four of GC's matches will be against a team that was in the national tournament a season ago and finished inside the Top 20. The lowest ranking team before the preseason poll is No. 17 Bellevue.
The weekend starts with a Friday afternoon clash with No. 8 Viterbo, which ended the Tigers 2012 season. The Friday nightcap is against No. 3 University of Texas at Brownsville. Georgetown returns to action with a Saturday match against No. 13 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and rounds out the weekend with a showdown with Bellevue.
"The Boneyard Brawl is another opportunity to test ourselves, gain confidence, and see what we need to work on before entering the final two weeks of the season," Griffin said. "It will be a measuring stick for our team and a great lead into the postseason."
Georgetown emerges from that brutal weekend to face its two toughest road environments against conference rivals Lindsey Wilson and Campbellsville. Lindsey Wilson finished the season at the NAIA National Championships and finished No. 20 in the final poll, while Campbellsville received votes several times during the season.
The Tigers have one more week of regular season play before the MSC Tournament Nov. 14-16 in Louisville. The national tournament's opening round is Nov. 23 with the finishing of the tournament in Sioux City, Iowa Dec. 2-7.