Georgia Southern volleyball set to start 2019 campaign with first-year Head Coach Chad Willis at the helm

Ryan Kostensky and Amanda Arnold

The Georgia Southern women’s volleyball team opens their 2019 season in Macon with a lot of questions and excitement happening within the program right now.

In 2018, the Eagles finished at 8-22 and inevitably made a coaching change, where they brought in Chad Willis from Appalachian State to give the program a much needed boost by creating a culture of winning. The first-year head man talked about that process of creating the culture, as well as what he’s liked from the team in the preseason.

“I’ll start collectively,” Willis said. “And I told our team this as we’re wrapping up preseason. I’ve been really impressed with just overall our focus and our energy and effort level throughout preseason. We’ve talked a lot about this spring, starting to build a culture of what it means to come in every single day and pursue excellence and not really chase success, but just focus on being the best versions of ourselves each and every day.”

As for on the court, the Eagles return some talented players from the year prior. Junior Skylar Ball and senior Carly Turner both hope to play big roles for the team and are two players to keep an eye on this season. 

Ball played in all 60 matches to start her career, and has been a staple for this GS lineup. Playing as an outside hitter and in the middle, she averaged 2.37 kills per set last season, good for second place on the team.

Turner has seen a good career thus far, and looks to add on her success in 2019. Turner finished 2018 with 252 kills and 43 blocks, good for fourth and fifth place on the team.

“I’m super excited,” Turner said. “There’s lots of good energy and preseason’s been really great, and we’re just excited to get out and compete.”

The Eagles head up I-16 this Friday for the Mercer Bears Classic, where they will play matches against Campbell and Mercer on Friday and Nicholls State on Saturday. Friday’s competition against Campbell get underway at 1 p.m.

This will be the first match for the Camels, who are coming off of a 9-17 record last season.

The team is led by the only senior on the team, outside hitter Allena Heath. In her career, she was chosen for the All-Big South Freshman Team, Big South Player of the Week, 2017 All-Big South First Team and 2018 Preseason All-Big South. 

The Mercer volleyball team finished 16-13 last season and returns redshirt-senior middle blocker Alexia Morey and senior outside hitter Amber Gibson. They were eliminated in the second round of the Southern Conference Tournament. 

Nicholls State finished 3-26 last season and returns two seniors, defensive specialist Emily Venable and outside hitter Jennifer Olivarez. Venable led the team with 359 digs and served as the team’s libero, while Olivarez saw action in 20 matches.

With a positive mindset and a push for change in the program culture, the Eagles hope to reach new heights this season. 

Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Editor, 

Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter,