Freshman orientation is ahead of schedule for the Fort Lewis College volleyball team.
The Skyhawks, who open the regular season in two weeks, passed their advancement placement exam Saturday with a spirited 3-2 exhibition win over a star-studded alumnae team at Whalen Gymnasium.
The match was the first college volleyball test for seven Fort Lewis freshmen and one sophomore and their first match with the seven returning FLC veterans.
I was thrilled with them overall, FLC coach Shelley Aaland said after showcasing her two-tiered team.
This alumni game was a little early for us this year, especially with all the new players, Aaland said. But I was thrilled with ... how we played. As a team, we played up to a higher level.
Mixing an on-court lineup that often included four freshmen, Aaland outlined a lesson plan to match up with a stellar alumnae squad that featured four recent All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference players and a former consensus All-American all-star.
Those players (on the alumnae team) are the reason were where we are today and why we have these players, Aaland said after the alums and the current Skyhawks split the first of four unofficial sets in the preseason match.
They (alums) played very well, she said, adding that early in the match the alumnae provided a few welcome to college volleyball moments.
That was a good test for us. It helps us see what we need to work on, she said after the current roster topped the grads 18-16 in an unofficial fifth set playing under pressure to the end.
Weve been practicing a lot with the freshmen in the rotation, said junior Jessica Wilson, a former Durango High School standout.
Were getting used to it, she said.
Wilson is a returning starter who had a solo block, a pair of kills at the net and a back-row kill in the opening set, won by the current Skyhawks.
Chelsea Flaming, a senior and another DHS grad, mashed a trio of big kills in the opener all off sets from freshman Hali Groninger of Denver East.
Groninger was forced to play all five sets for the Skyhawks with senior Adiana Saiz temporarily sidelined.
My setter did a really good job, Aaland said. It was great for her to be out there and to play so well.
Groninger worked often to Taylor and Taylor in the middle senior Taylor Hillberry and freshman Taylor Frederking.
She also spread the ball around to fellow freshmen Hannah Starbuck, Julie Oberriter, Kristin Stephan and Taryn Pearce.
Frederking, 6-1, is from Broomfield. Pearce, 5-10, is from Glenwood Springs. Oberriter, 6-0, is from Summit High School (Dillon/Breckenridge). All three were top players in their respective prep conferences.
The 6-0 Stephan, from Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, also was an all-conference prep player, as was freshman Jenna Kinzer of Colorado Springs (Rampart).
Were learing how to play ... together, said Starbuck, a freshman from Grandview High School in Aurora, one of Colorados premier Class 5A volleyball programs.
Were learning how to trust each other. Coach Aaland does a good job of teaching that, Starbuck said.
This was a good test. They were really fun to play against, she said of the former Fort Lewis players, led by 2007 All-American Nicole Schwab and many of her former teammates Lee Anne Greenwade, Temple Levings, Adrianne Dettler and current FLC assistant Anna Mekeel.
Recent alumnae Terri Winfrey, Kelly McDonald, Stephanie Lathrop and Kathrine Sumrall also played against the 2010 version of the Skyhawks.
The matchs spirited play, start to finish, encouraged Aaland with nearly two more weeks of preparation before the opener Sept. 3 against Chaminade (Hawaii) at the Oredigger Volleyball Classic in Golden.
I like ... the scrapiness of play, Im seeing that with this team, Aaland said. That was something we didnt necessarily have the last couple of years, Aaland said.
I like that, Aaland said.