CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The new era of Charlotte volleyball begins this weekend as the 49ers host the Charlotte Invitational inside Halton Arena on Friday and Saturday. The tournament features five teams with a total of nine matches starting with five on Friday. Along with Charlotte, Morgan State, UNCG, ETSU and Sacramento state will make up the field.
First year Head Coach Gokhan Yilmaz will look to turn around a Niners volleyball program who won just 12 games a season ago with two of those coming back in Conference USA play. Yilmaz will count on the nine returners and six newcomers to help turn the tables in 2014.
“We want to be tougher and not having many things bother us,” remarked Yilmaz. We want to close games and win those closer sets than in the past. All of the teams were playing will each post a different challenge for us which we like.”
Charlotte started 2013 with 10 wins in 15 opportunities before the ugly turn of events began by losing 10-straight in Conference USA play. The season did end on a better note with league wins over UTEP (3-1) and former conference rival East Carolina (3-2).
Three of the five Niners who posted triple-digit kills last season return that includes sophomore Claire Kreuz who put down 253 kills a season ago while registering a team-high 27 service aces. Sarah McDonald and Savannah Gaster are the other two coming back into 2014 posting 173 and 126 kills respectively. Returning from injury, Abreia Epps will look to help provide some of the Niners offense this season while senior Laura Cantrell and freshmen Irem Asci, Sarah Adams, Semen Sen and Marshae Bradbury.
Consistency in the setting department returns with Britney Leigh Held and freshman Michaela White. White will look to learn from the junior Held who recorded 1,115 assists last year averaging 10.52 per set. For her efforts, Held was named to the NCCSIA All-State First-Team and found herself on the 49er Invitational All-Tournament team.
Libero Michelle Hovey returns to help anchor the Niners back line as the junior needs just 209 kills in 2014 to become only the 18th player to join Charlotte’s prestigious 1,000-dig club. Hovey popped up 556 digs last season while fellow defensive specialist Morgan Barker returns after saving 244 points last season. Jackie Servais and Cincinnati transfer Shelby Green will also provide a good amount of defense for the Niners.
The blocking department will look to improve in 2014 after losing its top two blockers from a year ago. McDonald will bring her team-high 16 solo blocks back to the net while Gaster, Held and Kreuz will look to add upon their 153 combined total blocks as well. Sen and Bradbury will also look to get into any block parties for Charlotte in their middle blocker positions.
The first opponent for the Niners will be Morgan State at 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon before wrapping up day one play in the Charlotte Invitational at 7:30 p.m. against UNCG. Saturday’s action for the 49ers will begin at 12:00 p.m. facing ETSU before wrapping up with Sacramento State at 7:00 p.m. A capsule of the four other teams as well as a tournament schedule can be found below.
“We have to be able to play against different styles of play,” continued Yilmaz “We’re teaching a lot of new things and different styles of play so it’s trying to figure out where everyone fits and what we can do this year to improve. Our goal in out of conference play is to find the best possible lineup so we’re ready to play in Conference USA.”
Admission to this weekend’s Charlotte Invitational is just $5 each day. Live stats will be provided for all matches with live video of the Niners matches being provided by http://www.charlotte49ers.com. Fans can stay up to date all season long with the Niners by following @49erVolleyball on Twitter.
Location: Baltimore, Md.
2013 Record: 12-13, 7-5
Head Coach: Ramona Riley-Bozier (27th Season)
Location: Johnson City, Tenn.
Conference: Southern Conference (previously Atlantic Sun)
2013 Record: 22-9, 16-2 A-Sun
Head Coach: Lindsey Devine (11th Season)
Location: Greensboro, N.C.
Conference: Southern Conference
2013 Record: 17-13, 10-6
Head Coach: Corey Carlin (1st Year)
Location: Sacramento, Calif.
Conference: Big Sky Conference
2013 Record: 15-16, 10-10
Head Coach: Ruben Valta
To visit the Charlotte Invitational tournament page, click HERE.