Aug. 7, 2012
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AUBURN, Ala. - Head Coach Rick Nold and the Auburn volleyball team began its fall practice schedule Tuesday, going through two workouts at the Student Activities Center in preparation for the upcoming 2012 season.
Nold, in his second year with the Tigers, welcomed a roster of 14 players back to campus on Monday, where the Tigers took physicals, had their first team meetings and gathered for a team meal before beginning the first of 24 preseason practices Tuesday.
"It's exciting to be back in (the gym)," Nold said. "A lot of this morning was just going through testing, seeing where the kids were after coming back from a long break. Today we're going through and implementing all of our defensive systems and things like that. It will take some time before we get into playing again. But the kids came back excited, and we're ready to go."
Unlike last season, when three players were unavailable for the first few days of practice, all 14 players were in uniform Tuesday as the team went through its first drills of the 2012 preseason.
"Obviously, it's nice to have everyone here," Nold said. "A lot of them were here through the summer and were able to get a little bit of a head-start on some stuff. Again, everybody's ready to go. We've got four new people in the gym, and they're taking to things rather quickly."
Auburn returns 10 letter-winners and four starters (plus both players that played the libero position) from the 2011 squad that finished 11-19 overall, 5-15 in the Southeastern Conference.
Senior outside hitter Sarah Bullock (Allen, Texas) leads the way for the Tiger returnees as she enters the season just 99 kills shy of 1,000 for her career. Bullock was second on the team last year with 251 kills (2.56/set), and her defense was also huge for the Tigers as her 278 digs (2.84/set) ranked second on the squad as well. Bullock also enters the season with 27 career double-doubles, including nine last season.
Camila Jersonsky (Buenos Aires, Argentina) is the team's top returning hitter by percentage. The junior middle blocker hit .356 last season (166 kills, 37 errors, 362 attacks) to rank fourth overall in the SEC. She was also the team's top blocker with 70 total stops (15 solo, 55 assist) in 2011. And redshirt junior Katherine Culwell (Dallas, Texas) returns after missing the entire 2011 season with injury to provide even more depth to Auburn's outside hitters. In 2010, she recorded 126 kills and ranked second on the team with 11 solo blocks while posting a pair of double-doubles.
Junior setter Chelsea Wintzinger (Huntsville, Ala.) will be the team's primary setter as the most experienced returner on the squad. She was the starter in 25 of 30 matches last year and played in 107 of a possible 108 sets. She led the team and ranked ninth in the SEC with 791 assists (7.39) in 2011, and she was one of the team's best servers with 16 aces on the year.
Three true freshmen - Ciara Richards (Palm Springs, Calif.), Mary Hannah Arrington (Marietta, Ga.) and Lindsey Wintzinger (Huntsville, Ala.) - join sophomore transfer Halle Kearney (Middleburg Heights, Ohio) as the four newcomers on the Auburn roster. All are expected to make immediate contributions to the team's success.
Former Auburn head coach Kris Grunwald also returns to the Plains as an assistant on Nold's staff. Grunwald had served the past three seasons as an assistant at Arkansas; he was an assistant at Auburn from 1994-97 before serving as head coach in 1998 and 1999.
The Tigers will continue two-a-day practices each day through Aug. 15; classes begin the following day. Auburn opens the 2012 season Friday, Aug. 24, in the Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Tournament in Green Bay, Wis., where they will face Central Michigan, Drake and Green Bay. The Tigers' home schedule begins Aug. 31-Sept. 1 with the War Eagle Invitational as Auburn plays host to High Point, Georgia Southern and Jacksonville State.
Tigers Picked Fifth in SEC West: Auburn was picked to finish fifth in the SEC's Western Division by the league's coaches, the conference office announced Monday. The Tigers received 58 points, which were compiled on a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 basis for the seven-team Western Division and 1-2-3-4-5-6 for the Eastern Division.
LSU (20 points) was the preseason pick to win the West with conference newcomer Texas A&M (22) tabbed second. Arkansas (27) was third, followed by Ole Miss (52), Auburn (58), Alabama (65) and Mississippi State (71).
Tennessee was the overwhelming favorite to win the conference title, receiving 12 of 13 first-place votes, the maximum possible since teams were not allowed to vote for themselves. Kentucky was picked second in the East with 30 points, followed by Florida (35), Missouri (37), Georgia (56) and South Carolina (67).