CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Chattanooga Mocs volleyball team is just over a week away from its first match of the 2013 season as the Georgia Tech Invitational begins August 30 in Atlanta, Ga. UTC faces a familiar with foe in the College of Charleston before squaring off against the hosting Yellow Jackets and Florida A&M.
With seven newcomers to the team, plenty of questions surround Chattanooga’s fresh rotation. The answers begin first on the defensive side of the ball with liberos and defensive specialists.
“We have a lot of great defensive players,” Head Coach Travis Filar said. “We have great depth in the defensive specialist and libero role with returners Melissa Green, Catherine Chason and newcomer Hannah Merkle.”
Green returns as one of the two most tenured Mocs on roster, along with fellow junior Kasey Talley (Boiling Springs, S.C.). The Boca Raton, Fla., native has seen action in 32 matches in each of her two seasons. Green logged 399 digs and 3.53 digs per set in 2011 and 338 digs with 2.84 digs per set in 2012.
Each season, Green served as a like-jersey defensive specialist while then-starting libero Paula Passmore snagged the majority of the digs. This season, Filar looks for the junior to step in and take the reigns as a team leader and defensive captain.
Catherine Chason is also listed as a defensive specialist and is extremely capable of playing libero for the Mocs. Despite her youth, the Alpharetta, Ga., sophomore has shown her skill and created competition for a starting spot in the rotation.
“There can be only one libero on the court and that has created some great competition between Catherine and Melissa,” Filar said. “Both are great with getting us in system with their digging. It will be interesting to see how they preform throughout camp.”
Chason played in 32 matches last season and started nine of the competitions. As a freshman, Chason recorded 247 digs and was solid as a server with 13 service aces. Her 13 aces ranked her third among Mocs servers while ranking fourth in digs.
Also thrown into the mix this season is Hannah Merkle. A freshman from Parker, Colo., Merkle has adjusted to the college level very quickly. It is very likely the freshman will compete for a starting spot on the court, but will most certainly see regular playing time in 2013.
“Each of the three do something different and have their own strengths,” Filar said. “All three really elevate our level of first-contacts on the gym. Serving, passing and digging – they are all so solid and very steady in their play.”
Despite having depth at libero, the Mocs only have one setter on roster – freshman Anne Bachmann – but a highly touted setter, at that.
“Anne is our only true setter,” Filar said. “I think most coaches would be concerned with that, but throughout recruiting and getting to know Anne – watching her play and compete at the club lever – that is not a concern of mine.”
Transitioning seamlessly into the college game, Bachmann gets the starting nod for the Mocs. Filar said the setter is picking up the Chattanooga system well and he expects her to perform as a seasoned veteran would.
“We are asking a lot of her. We wanted her to quarterback our offense and be an extension of the coaching staff on the floor. We have challenged her to do different things, like speeding up the offense, and she has done it in the snap of a finger.”
But while having Bachmann anchor down the starting spot, backups are always needed. Filar and his coaching staff are looking to the three defensive specialists to fill that role.
“Our defensive specialists are the ones we look to for that second contact and to better the ball when they need to and that goes hand-in-hand with the setter’s position. We have confidence that if we ever needed to call on Catherine, Hannah or Melissa to step up and fill that role that any one of them could make that transition without hesitation.”