Now in its second season under head coach Kalie Mader, the 2016 Blinn College volleyball team is poised to build upon last season’s success in its debut season under Mader’s tutelage.
The Buccaneers finished with a 31-12 overall record, a Region XIV Tournament championship and a seventh-place finish at the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in 2015, but Blinn volleyball still expects to improve upon last season.
The Buccaneers will return six players from last year and have 10 new players coming in. Blinn was ranked No. 7 in the first poll released by the NJCAA.
The six players returning with national tournament experience are Danusia Sipa Borgeaud (Canberra, Australia), Alexis Kingston (Houston), Eboni Mitchell (Austin), Ally Lanik (Sugar Land), MeKayla Gurley (Sweeny) and Haylie Ewald (Caldwell).
At outside hitter, Kingston is coming off a freshman season with 271 kills and 95 blocks. Mitchell is a powerful all-conference and all-region outside hitter who delivered 370 kills and 49 blocks a year ago.
Borgeaud was originally recruited as a defensive player, but was able to step up on the offensive end and earned all-conference honors, finishing with 250 kills and 450 digs. Lanik saw court time at nationals last year at setter and will look to increase her playing time. Ewald and Gurley will be part of a strong group of defensive specialists, which will be a very valuable asset to the team.
There will be 10 new players donning a Blinn uniform for the first time. Shayla Eugene (Fort Worth) and Bradyn Rice (Atascocita) are both freshmen coming in at the libero position. Eugene (TAV-Dallas) and Rice (TAV-Houston) each played for one of the top club programs in the state.
Kylee Kaaihue (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Madison Turner (Chelsea, Ala.) will be joining Lanik at the setter position.
“Kylee and Madison both have an incredible love for the game,” Mader said. “I see both of them playing with so much passion and both players could be big for us.”
Britny Mitchell (Austin), Paola Maria Salas Adorno (Puerto Rico) and Ashleigh Traylor (Bellville) will be joining Kingston and Eboni Mitchell at the outside hitter position. Britny Mitchell plays with finesse, Adorno with some power and Traylor possesses a solid defensive mentality.
Riley Nix (Fort Worth), Amina Olajuwon (Huntsville), and Kayla Valigura (Hallettsville) are all incoming middle blockers. All three middle blockers will showcase different strengths. Nix plays the game with great decision making skills, Valigura works hard and loves to play a defensive game while Olajuwon will be a strong offensive option.
“Balanced talent in our players will be our strength this year,” Mader said. “I truly believe that great volleyball players are great all-around players and not just position players.”
Blinn will open the 2016 season at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, when it faces Midland College at the Ronda Shirley Classic at Tyler Junior College.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 34 NJCAA national championships since 1987. For more information, visit www.buccaneersports.com.