Junior Lauren Gainer returns to action in 2014 after a lower back injury cut her previous season short. She is touted as Chattanooga's strongest blocker.
Courtesy: GoMocs.com
Preseason Rundown: Right Side Hitters and Middle Blockers

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – As the 2014 season approaches quickly for the Chattanooga Mocs volleyball team, Head Coach Travis Filar and his coaching staff are enjoying the depth this year’s roster offers.  However, choosing the six student-athletes who will step onto the court Friday evening in Houston, Texas as starters from 16 student-athletes presents a hard decision.

The first position to explore is the right side hitter and middle blocker spot.  Despite listed as two positions, Filar often trains his right sides and middles as a single unit.

“We train them both as first-tempo attackers and like for them to be interchangeable during a match,” Filar said.  “This year is the first season I believe we will be able to do that because of our great depth at the position.”

Returners Lauren Gainer (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Sarah Batterton (Colbert, Wash.) may prove to lead the pack for the Mocs. Batterton averaged 1.77 kills per set last year with 154 kills.  She was also strong on defense with 40 total blocks.

Gainer saw action in just 86 sets last year due to a lower back injury but is heralded as the best at the blocker position. Her offense has also improved since last fall as she has worked on her ability to hit from various angles.

“Sarah has done a great job of cutting down on errors and is going to be a strong offensive force for us,” Filar said.  “Sarah is hitting from a variety of angles, and I believe Lauren is going to serve as our best defender.  I believe she is our best blocker at the position and has the ability to be an elite blocker in the conference.”

Redshirt freshman Emily Morrison (Atlanta, Ga.) returns to the team after undergoing shoulder surgery last year.  Morrison is still regaining her strength, but is a likely candidate for time on the floor.”

“She is in the mix,” Filar said.  “She had a really good spring camp and is familiar with our offense.”

Newcomer and redshirt sophomore Nicole Sumida (Hixson, Tenn.) joins the team after spending her freshman season at Lee University and her sophomore year as a redshirt with Butler.  Standing at 6-foot-3, Sumida is the tallest Moc on roster and brings a lot of experience to UTC.

“Nicole transferred in January so she was here for our spring season,” Filar said.  “She hits from a very high point, and can hit both in front and behind the setter.  She has a lot of versatility from both the middle and right side.”

Sophomore Kristy Wieser (Lincoln, Neb.), transfer from Nebraska-Omaha, and freshman Eden Murray (Dacula, Ga.) joined Chattanooga in August and are battling for minutes on the floor.

“Kristy has the ability to hit anywhere on the net, and Eden is very disciplined at the net,” Filar said. “I am very impressed with both newcomers, and fans shouldn’t be surprised to see either of them on the court at some point in the near future.”

The Mocs open the season Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Houston, Texas at the Houston Baptist Westchase Classic as they take on Tulsa. 

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