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2012 Volleyball Preview Part 3: Libero and Defensive Specialists

Jessica Adams is the all time digs leader at TU with 1,757
Jessica Adams is the all time digs leader at TU with 1,757
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Aug. 20, 2012

TULSA, Okla. - This week marks the beginning of the season for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane volleyball squad as the team prepares for the Nike Invitational.

Tulsa wrapped up its preseason camp on Sunday after almost two weeks of two-a-day practices and the Blue-Gold Scrimmage on Thursday.

Three 2011 NCAA Tournament teams await Tulsa in Western Michigan, Missouri State and Oklahoma at the Nike Invitational hosted by the Sooners on Friday and Saturday. TU's tilt against Western Michigan opens the season on Friday at 5 p.m., while Saturday's action sees Tulsa face Missouri State at 10 a.m. and Oklahoma at 7 p.m.



"Overall, I think we had a great camp," commented Head Coach Steven McRoberts."We kind of had some ups and downs during camp, but I think it helped us learn a lot about ourselves. I think we saw what we needed to see. I think a lot of positions will be up for grabs as there have been some great competitions for certain spots. The girls have today off as they started classes, but we will get into game mode tomorrow as we have three tough matches this weekend."

One of the strengths of the Hurricane this year will be its ball control and passing, provided by the back row defense. Tulsa is led by 2011 Conference USA Libero of the Year Jessica Adams, the Tulsa all-time digs leader. She is joined by fellow senior Shelbi Pitcher and freshman Kelsey Parks on the defensive front.

"We feel like our serve receive is not only one of the best in the conference but maybe the whole country, and a big part of that is because of Jessica," McRoberts said. "She had a great run for us last year and not only did she do a great job for us in serve receive but also defense."

Adams, a native of Oklahoma City and a high school teammate of fellow TU teammate Tyler Henderson, is the Tulsa career leader in digs with 1,757. Additionally, she is the only TU player to record 500 digs in three straight seasons. In 2011, she averaged 4.85 digs per set and 0.23 service aces per set. She also led C-USA in league play with service aces with .92 per set.

"From a serve receiver standpoint, she does such a great job," McRoberts stated. "I remember my first spring when we went to scrimmage Texas. They were bombing serves and one point I realized that we were running all three hitters every single time because they were hitting at Jess."

Pitcher is a three-year letterwinner at Tulsa and has 448 digs during her career. Last year, she played in 10 matches and 27 sets and tallied 41 digs.

"Shelby is a big reason why Jess is as good as she is," commented McRoberts. "has pushed her on a daily basis for the past three years. Shelby is a high-energy player, a great teammate and somebody that we would love to have tons of players like her with her personality. I think she could start for most teams as a libero, and she just happened to fall in a situation that her and Jess were in the same class. With us going to 15 subs, that gives us more of a possibility for us to find more time for her on the court."

Parks arrives onto the TU campus after earning three letters at Bentonville High School in Bentonville, Ark. She led her squad in digs last year with 264, while she paced her team with blocks in 2010 with 52.

"I think it is going to be a good situation for Kelsey to come into. She is not only getting to play against those seniors every day on a competitive level but she gets to see how they train and gets to learn from those two. What we want to see from Kelsey is how much growth she achieves this year as both Jess and Shelbi will graduate."

In addition, outside hitters Diana Silva and Kellie Culbertson are a critical part to the Tulsa passing arsenal.

"Diana and Kellie have the ability to pass as good as Jess does, which helps us when teams avoid serving to Jess," McRoberts said. "That's why I think we have one of the better trios of passers in the nation, and that keeps us in every match that we play."

TU begins its quest for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth at the Nike Invitational August 24-25 in Norman, Okla. The Hurricane will face off against Western Michigan, Missouri State and Oklahoma during the two-day affair.

After a road trip to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks on August 28, the Hurricane will make its way up to Lawrence, Kan., to take part in the Kansas Volleyball Invitational on August 31 and September 1. TU will have contests against Arkansas State, Kansas and Nebraska-Omaha.

A cross-town rivalry game at Oral Roberts on September 4 marks the team's return to the state before they play in their final road tournament in the Northern Colorado Tournament. TU will face Northern Colorado, Creighton and Ball State on September 7 and 8 in Greely, Colo.

Tulsa will play its first home matches of the season September 13-15 with the Tulsa Classic. The classic features four NCAA Tournament squads from a year ago in Tulsa, Kansas State, Dayton and Minnesota. The Golden Hurricane kick off its conference slate a week later on September 19 when it hosts SMU, the only C-USA squad to beat TU a season ago. All Tulsa regular season games are free to the public.

TU will host the Conference USA Championship Nov. 16-18 in the Reynolds Center. This marks the first conference tournament since the 2009 campaign.

For all Tulsa volleyball news and information, visit www.TulsaHurricane.com. Follow Tulsa Athletics on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/TulsaHurricane and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TulsaHurricane. Follow Tulsa Volleyball on Twitter (www.twitter.com/TulsaVolleyball) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TulsaVolleyball).