By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 17, 2015) — Every year, thousands of college volleyball players across the country dream of being named an All-American.
They dream of winning a conference tournament, perhaps even a match in the NCAA playoffs.
But for Tarleton State University sophomore outside hitter Hailey Roberts, those aren’t just dreams, and they aren’t just reality. They are memories.
That’s just what the 6-0 Cedar Park product achieved as a freshman, when she earned Daktronics NCAA Division II Third-Team All-America honors by leading the LSC in kills with 4.24 per set and aces with 60 total, or 0.5 per set. She was also named LSC Freshman of the Year and Daktronics First-Team All-Region.
Now, Roberts is ready for more. And others are expecting quite the encore in her sophomore season, as a vote of league head coaches, sports information personnel and designated media resulted in her being named the LSC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
“After such a successful season, we’re excited because now we’ve seen what we can do and where we can go as a team,” said Roberts during a team photo shoot Sunday before preseason practices began on Monday. “We believe we can go to the next level and we’re ready to make that happen.”
First, the team needs its star outside hitter to be healthy. Roberts had offseason shoulder surgery in March and says she has not played any volleyball since the TexAnns were eliminated in the regional semifinals last November.
“It’s been a long recovery. It felt like forever, but it’s only been five months on (August) 20th,” Roberts said. “It’s been tough, but I’m definitely ready for the season.”
Roberts isn’t the only reason Tarleton and head coach Mary Schindler are excited about the 2015 campaign. She’s part of a trio of sophomores including setters Emily Medlin and Chandler Gow that were pivotal to last year’s success as freshmen, helping the TexAnns to a record of 24-8 and their first conference tournament title and NCAA playoff win in school history.
Also back is LSC Defensive Player of the Year Kenya Alexander, a 6-4 senior middle blocker who led the league with 183 blocks, or 1.49 per set. Alexander, who is picked to repeat her LSC defensive honor, joined Roberts on the Daktronics All-Region team, and is a big reason the TexAnns are picked second in the official 2015 LSC preseason poll.
But while there are familiar faces up and down the Tarleton roster, there are new faces, too. Six of them to be exact after the loss of four seniors.
“We are coming in with so many new girls, so the first thing is we have to work on learning the system and playing together,” Roberts said. “We have to help them get comfortable with the team and campus and everything like the older girls did for us last year.”
Among the newcomers are Louisiana Tech transfer Xzache Mathis, a 5-11 senior outside hitter from Longview. There are three junior college additions – defensive specialist Rebecca Schlorff from Navarro College in Corsicana, outside hitter Abby Mackey from Tyler Junior College and outside hitter Rebecca Dauenhauer from North Central Texas College in Gainesville. There are also a pair incoming freshmen in libero Adrianna Knutson from Reagan High School in San Antonio and outside hitter Hannah McManus from Caldwell.
Roberts says this time with teammates before school starts and classes take them all their separate ways, is important to the development of the team.
“It’s definitely cool to get here before the other kids. There are things we can do together to as a team and it’s not so crowded,” she said. “That’s part of what’s special about being an athlete is all the things we do together as a team that most kids don’t get to experience.”
Like winning championships and individual superlatives, honors Roberts has three years still to amass.
“There are definitely new expectations now that weren’t there last year, just because we’ve had success and because of the preseason honors,” Roberts said. “But that’s what we want. It’s exciting to see that people expect big things from us.