After a disappointing 13-21 outcome in 2007, the Roadrunner volleyball team is set to make 2008 a winning season riding a young and upcoming squad.
Since joining UTSA in 2002, head coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff, a former All-American at the University of Texas at Austin, has become the third most successful coach in school history with 93 wins, just 21 behind former UTSA head coach Dave Hawk.
Neugebauer-Groff has coached 19 All-SLC selections, 13 SLC All-Academic honorees and 2005 SLC Student-Athlete of the Year, Meagan Daniel.
The Roadrunners return seven letter-winners to SLC competition. Preseason first-team All-Southland Conference selection sophomore Kendra Rowland returns to her “home away from home,” outside hitting position where she recorded 449 kills along with 1,285 attacks and 28 service aces in 2007.
The Antioch, California, native began her UTSA career by making back-to-back all-tournament teams at the Bronco Invitational and the North Florida Labor Day Classic.
Senior setter Rebecca Hrapmann exemplifies the depth the Runners carry at the position. A three-year veteran with 81 games of experience, Hrapmann has 1,349 career assists, including a team-leading 863 in 2007.
Defensive specialist Audrey Hiser enters her final season with 1,058 career digs. Hiser, who was the best defender for the Runners in 2007, has played in every match excluding two since debuting for the Roadrunners in 2005.
Hiser has a particular infatuation with playing I-35 rival Texas State. She racked up 41 digs in 2007 against the Bobcats and is eager to renew the rivalry in 2008.
Sophomore setter Jordan White looks to see significant playing time in her second season with the Runners. White played in 28 matches, including 12 starts, in route to recording 444 assists, 149 digs, 56 kills and 19 total blocks.
Sophomore middle/outside hitter Valorie Rogers is another example of the young, experienced talent the Roadrunners will display this season. As a freshman, Rogers played in all 34 matches and started in all but one, positioning herself second on the team in kills, hitting percentage, block solos, block assists and total blocks.
Briana Mason is another weapon in Neugebauer-Groff’s middle-hitting arsenal. The diversely talented sophomore from Dallas appeared in 31 matches, collecting 125 kills along with 35 total blocks and 32 digs.
Senior outside hitter Gena Rhodes returns to action after a 2007 campaign where she was shelved early due to an ankle injury. Before the injury, Rhodes contributed 139 kills and 66 digs along with 24 total blocks. Rhodes returned healthy in the spring and has continued working diligently on the court in preparation for her return.
“We really got to know each other during two-a-days, which were really tough,” Rowland said. “Half of us are return players and half are new. We are still learning about each other.”
Alongside the seven returning letter-winners, the Roadrunners have added nine newcomers, including six true freshman and three transfers. Local product Kelsey Jewasko is an outside hitter and defensive specialist who has the ability to make immediate contributions along the back row and at the net.
Elise Huskey comes to UTSA from Columbus, Texas, as a highly-touted high school athlete who led her team to the Texas 3A State Tournament as an outside hitter. She should see significant time.
The Roadrunners have already competed in two tournaments for the year: the Mizuno Invitational at Rice University and the Baylor Classic.
“During the tournaments, we learned exactly what we need to work on. We have to pick up the intensity and have a positive mindset,” Rowland said. “We also learned how good we could be. We were able to compete against teams like Baylor and Michigan. We have the potential to be great.”
The Roadrunners make their Convocation Center debut Sept. 10 against Georgia with the new UTSA logo on the court.