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2012 Volleyball Preview Part 4: Middle Blockers

Miriele Gobbo was second on the team a year ago in blocks with 74.
Miriele Gobbo was second on the team a year ago in blocks with 74.
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Aug. 21, 2012

TULSA, Okla. -

The youngest unit of the Tulsa volleyball squad, the middle blockers have improved from a year ago with not only more experience, but also more depth.

Redshirt junior Miriele Gobbo and sophomore Carly Boatwright return from last year, while . Ashley Hooper, Nicole Newton and Alexis Mitchell round out the position.



"Coming into camp, we thought our middle blockers would be our most competitive position," commented Head Coach Steven McRoberts. "There is not a lot of separation between number one on our depth chart and number four on it."

Gobbo, a native of Curitiba, Brazil, tallied 120 kills, 74 blocks and 165.5 total points last year. In eight matches last year, she had 4.0 or more blocks and on the season she had a .295 attack percentage, which was second on the squad.

"Miri has come in and been the most consistent player for us in our preseason camp," McRoberts stated. "Last year, she became more and more our number one middle as the season went on, and she held that spot during camp. Hopefully we can get her a little more involved in the offense. We have worked on getting the setters a little more confident on not only passing her way but to the other middles. Right now, she is number one on the depth chart."

Boatwright appeared in all 35 matches last year and led the team in blocks with 82. She also added 173 kills, 23 service aces and 71 digs. A native of Parker, Colo., Boatwright had a season high 7.0 blocks at Memphis and a career game against Kentucky early on in the campaign

"Carly started very well last year, but plateaued out," McRoberts said. "This spring she bounced back. She got a whole lot stronger, and she looks good. From a physical standpoint, she is one of our bigger players, so we need her to step up from a blocking standpoint, and we feel that her offense will follow that lead."

Hooper, Newton and Mitchell will increase the depth of the unit this fall.

Hooper arrived at TU after earning Sportsman of the Year and Outstanding Blocker in District 8-Class 5A as a senior at Allen High School in Lewisville, Texas. She tallied 44 solo blocks and 243 kills during the 2011 campaign.

Newton compiled 174 kills and 182 blocks during her senior season at Lovejoy High School in Wylie, Texas. She also had a .482 hitting percentage and 72 digs, and was an Academic All-State selection. Newton was named District 19-3A Blocker of the Year and was named to the Texas State All-Tournament Team in 2011.

"Ashley and Nicole have had great camps," McRoberts commented. "They have pushed Carly and Miri every day, and it wouldn't surprise us if the two freshmen play as much as those two upperclassmen. We have told all four of them that they have to be ready every day. At any moment, we could plug one of them in to give us a lift. All of them bring a little bit of a different skill set to the team. It is going to be interesting to see how that plays out this season."

Mitchell was a four-year letterwinner and starter in volleyball at Blue Eye High School in Blue Eye, Mo. She is the first Division I volleyball player and second Division I athlete in her high school's history. She led her squad in kills (292), blocks (71) and service aces (71) in 2011.

"We feel like this will be a good year for Alexis to get stronger and get some training in," McRoberts stated. "We have not only looked at her in the middle, but we have been getting her a lot of reps on the right side."

"Right now, we are really outside-hitter-dependent," McRoberts said. "When you have a Tyler Henderson, a Diana Silva and Kellie Culbertson you have to utilize them on the outside. Our middles realize that, but we really we need them to be big for us on the block, to get us points here and to be consistent, for us to be successful."

TU begins its quest for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth at the Nike Invitational this weekend (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 opens 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).