With new players from Hawaii, Serbia, Brazil and Venezuela, the Tyler Junior College volleyball team will have a distinctly different look and feel this season.
Second-year TJC coach Ronda Shirley had time to recruit a full class for 2011, and it shows with a revamped roster.
“I do feel like we’re going to have more depth in all positions, which is going to be a strength right off the bat,” Shirley said. “I feel like the sophomores returning bring a lot of good experience, but the incoming kids have come from very established clubs and high school programs and will come in and be good impact players.
“I feel very positive about this year’s squad. I do feel like it’s definitely a step up in level of volleyball talent we have this year. We definitely have some very good internationals that have come in … They bring a different level of the game and their experience is always vital on this level. I feel like all the correct pieces are there. It’s just getting the right chemistry out there to produce some wins.”
Shirley, who started her job at TJC on July 1, 2010, guided the Apache Ladies to marks of 17-22 (overall) and 6-6 (conference) last season.
The Apache Ladies open the 2011 season at home today with the Coach Dana Hatch Invitational. TJC plays Independence (Kan.) at 11 a.m. and Vernon at 5 p.m. The 10-team event will be held at Gentry Gym in the Ornelas HPE Center. Each team is guaranteed two matches.
TJC’s four returning sophomores are setter Bridget Hannifin (Clever, Mo.), outside hitter Alysha Rogers (Franklin), libero Sadie Hilburn (Whitehouse) and right side/middle Haydn Beatty (Oklahoma City).
Hilburn will control TJC’s back-row defense.
“She’s a great leader on the court and off the court,” Shirley said. “She’s a very disciplined player and she can bring some good energy to the team with good communication. She does a great job with the floor defense. I’m excited to see her growth from last year to this year.”
Hanafin was TJC’s main setter last year, but she can also swing on the front row and show her versatility, Shirley said.
Beatty, a starting middle as a freshman, will also see time on the right side this year.
“Once we get our freshmen into (playing middle), I would like to see her move to the right side,” Shirley said.
Shirley’s most recent addition is setter Anuhea Keanini, a 5-7 sophomore from Hawaii. Keanini is a Division I transfer from Cal Poly.
The international newcomers are 6-3 middle blocker Ivana Bulajic (Serbia), 6-1 middle blocker Jaqueline Santos (Brazil) and 5-9 outside hitter Daniela Pena (Venezuela).