CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.-- As the Chattanooga Mocs' Southern Conference opener approaches, a more confident UTC volleyball team hits the court against Appalachian State and Western Carolina this weekend. The six-win Mocs, already with more wins than all of last season, can credit their early success to the depth at the right-side hitter and middle blocker position.
Chattanooga head coach Travis Filar installed a new game-plan at the two positions, making the right-sides and middles a single position.
"We train our middle blockers as a unit our gym," Filar said. "But one of those middles will be playing right side. The reason why we do that is because we want to try as much as we can to have two first-tempo-attackers when there are three hitters. We want our middles and our right sides to run something quick."
By-far Chattanooga's strongest position in the spring, senior Christina Teter (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and sophomore Kasey Talley (Boiling Springs, S.C.) return to the court while talented freshmen Sarah Batterton (Colbert, Wash.) and Lauren Gainer (Boca Raton, Fla.) are already seeing action at the collegiate level.
"Both Christina and Kasey had phenomenal springs," Filar said. "I am looking for big things from both of them coming into this year, as well. I think Christina has got an opportunity to be an All-Conference performer, and all of the teams in our conference know she has that ability as well. Most teams will be keying in on her, and that is why it is so important for us to get good play out of our outsides. Kasey will be playing some in the middle and some in the outside. She had a breakout-stretch in conference play last fall and was really effective for us. She is very dynamic in the middle or on the right side, and she can also be a really nice blocker for us."
Batteton and Gainer have already been utilized early in the season, filling in for the injured Talley who is out for a short time with a minor thumb injury. In the sophomore's absence, the two newcomers have been able to not only perform at the collegiate level with success, but also relieve Teter of pressures she endured last season as the only middle blocker.
Teter currently leads the team in kills with 124, closely followed by Batterton who has collected 107 on the young season. Gainer is sitting in fifth place with 72 kills, and Talley has only 24 as she returns from injury.
Christina also leads the team in blocks with 44, but Gainer and Batterton are listed second and third on the team with 33 and 23, respectively.
"We now have great depth at that position," Filar said. "That is something we struggled with last year from an attacking perspective. To have four capable blockers who can play middle or right side is going to allow us to do a lot of exciting and fast tempo things with our offense."
The Mocs open SoCon play Friday evening as they host Appalachian State at Maclellan Gym at 6 p.m. UTC continues SoCon play Saturday afternoon as Western Carolina comes to Chattanooga for a 3 p.m. match at "Big Mac". "Moc of the Match" signed mini-volleyballs will be thrown into the crowd as the Mocs starting lineup is announced, t-shirts for each ace by a Chattanooga player will be thrown to the crowd and post-match autographs from the team and coaches will be featured over the weekend.