The LaGrange volleyball team opens it 2012 season Friday and Saturday at the Huntingdon College Jubilee. The Panthers are hoping to build on last season's record of 17-15, their first winning season since 2008.
The Panthers will face Mississippi College and tournament host Huntingdon on Friday. They close out the tournament Saturday against Birmingham-Southern and Piedmont.
"We have a great mix of fresh new talent and experienced veterans to lead us this season," said head coach Julie Moses. "Even though we were picked to finish ninth, I believe that we are going to have much success this season in the USA South Conference. We are very capable of pulling some major upsets as long as we stay focused and push one point at a time."
The Panthers return senior setter Erin McKinstry, who will be expected to again run the offense this season. McKinstry paced last year's team with 8.78 assists per set and was selected to the GSAC All-Conference team. Senior Kristen Barton and newcomer Avery Shead will compete for playing time at the position.
Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Corona returns as the Panthers' strongest offensive threat. Last season, Corona was second on the team with 206 kills, averaging 2.51 kills per game and was selected to the GSAC All-Freshman team. Newcomers Destinee Briskey, Rebekah Hicks, Ali Hudgins, Kim MacIntyre and Morgan Elrod will also be getting swings in on the outside.
Juniors Hayley LaFontaine and Leslie Rhoades are expected to lead at middle hitter position after gaining valuable experience over the past two seasons. Freshmen Hayley Ritchie and Rachel White are expected to compete for playing time in the middle.
Right side hitter sophomore Nicole Wilson returns, after averaging 1.44 kills and 0.35 blocks per set in 2011. The coaching staff will look at Shead, along with fellow freshmen Shannon Thompson and Kelsie Snyder to step in at the opposite hitter position.
Defensively, Barton returns as the veteran in the back row, averaging 1.84 digs per set last season. Freshmen Ella Weymiller and Amanda Singletary are capable of making an immediate impact for the Panthers' defense.