2002 Season Outlook
New beginnings… quite possibly the theme for the 2002 Auburn Tigers. After a dismal 1-26 season in 2001, the Tigers are ready to embark on a new year with a fresh start.
First year head coach Laura Farina is a winner. She has proven it time and time again, first as a player at Illinois, and then in the coaching ranks at Michigan State and Marquette. Her largest task, however, may now be turning around a depleted Auburn program.
Farina has started off her mission on The Plains surrounding herself with players and staff that, like herself, know what it takes to be successful. The Strasburg, Ill., native brought with her assistant coaches Matt Darling from Marquette and former Penn State standout Steve Aird to form a formidable trio.
“I am fortunate to have a great staff. Each of us has strengths that are required of not just being good coaches but being a great staff for our student - athletes. We compliment one another, share the same goal for Auburn Volleyball, and work well together. Auburn has embraced us and we have embraced Auburn. What a great place to build a program.”
Farina, the Illinois Female Athlete of the Year in 1990, brings a philosophy of coaching to Auburn Volleyball that reflects her experiences.
“I think I am in a unique position as a college coach... A very good position for our prospective volleyball student-athletes. I have been in their shoes. From going through the recruiting process, to being a student-athlete, to working as a college assistant coach in building a program to now being a head coach — there are many first-hand experiences that can be related and shared in founding the program.
“It boils down to assisting people to be the best they can be. It may sound cliche, but that is the role of an educator not just a coach. On the court — it is creating an environment of always doing your best and competing for your teammates and for Auburn.”
The Tigers will return six players from the 2001 squad including seniors Grace Boyd and Kathia McKenzie and sophomores Jennifer Buckert, Tiffany Darling, Ginnie Gale and Jennifer Morozov.
“As players, I do not know them well. From the few weeks we had in the spring and from watching game film, it does not provide a background for what each is capable of fully achieving. As people, the returning players are hungry to prove themselves. A majority of them decided to forgo summer plans to be on campus together, work out and prepare for the season. Actions speak louder than words — their character is showing through!”
Incoming freshman setter/right side Mieka Jackson is the Tigers’ prize recruit for 2002 standing at 6-0 from Hamilton, Ontario. Jackson comes to Auburn knowing nothing but winning. The four-time Ontario Volleyball Association Excellence Award winner has been a member of six provincial championship teams and has won four national championships with her club team, the Hamilton Seekers.
“Mieka is one of the most athletic setters I have seen in the Class of 2002,” Farina said. “She excels in the classroom and on the court. We are very excited about her joining the Auburn Volleyball Family.”
In addition to Jackson, the Tigers welcome newcomers Negin Azarbehi, Lauren Couch, Brittany Diaz, Allex Doherty, Mindy Matthews and Bailey Veit to the team.
“It is always exciting when the full team reports to campus in August. These newcomers are excited about being a part of the team and contributing. Each will have an opportunity to do that.”
Auburn starts off the season on the road at the Deacon Invitational at Wake Forest University matching up with WFU, Ohio and Virginia Tech. The road trip continues for the Tigers as they travel to Hartford, Conn., for the Hartford Tournament including Sam Houston State, Hartford and Marist.
On Sept. 13, Auburn begins its’ home schedule with the War Eagle Invitational which features the Tigers, Middle Tennessee State, UNC Greensboro and Wyoming in the three-day tournament.
In their final road trip before starting Southeastern Conference action, Auburn travels to Albuquerque, N.M., for the New Mexico Tournament with UNM, Southern Methodist and Missouri-Kansas City.
The SEC portion of the schedule is set to begin Sept. 27 when Auburn travels to South Carolina for a meeting with the Lady Gamecocks and will wrap up Nov. 22-24 at the SEC Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
“For our inaugural season, the schedule is balanced. In the early part of the season, we will be able to solidify roles on the team, generate chemistry and confidence. As we enter the SEC season our focus will be on preparation for each team and putting the best team on the floor each night.”