Aug. 8, 2008
AUBURN - The calendar in the home of first-year Auburn volleyball coach Wade Benson has had Friday, August 8 marked on it for quite some time, and it is not just because it his birthday. After holding team meetings and handing out equipment on Thursday, players started filtering into the gym starting at 8:15 a.m., Friday to start training for the 2008 season.
"It felt good to see everybody out there for the first time really," said Benson. "We are starting to get the rust off and the coaching staff is very excited about getting the season started. The summer is over and now we are entering this new phase."
There are a lot of new faces around the gym as preseason training gets under way. Along with eight newcomers to the squad, the entire coaching staff is either new or in a new position. Benson is the only holdover from the old staff, moving up to head coach after serving as an assistant last season. Joining him on the staff are new assistants Chris Campbell and April Yantis.
Also returning for 2008 are eight letterwinners from last season, four of which were starters. The opportunity of meshing the experience of the returners with all the newcomers is something Benson says the staff is excited to tackle.
"There is a lot of excitement about it and around the program in general," said Benson. "We really like our team and are excited about where we are going to go and see what happens."
But, starting fresh with so much new personnel has its challenges. Benson said the majority of the first week of the season will include a lot of talking from the coaching staff, establishing the philosophy and direction of the team.
"You talk so much in the first few days and you hope they pick it up quickly, so that you can move on to some other things and have people progressing and growing," said Benson. "We have a lot of new kids and we have a lot of things to figure out. You hope things are progressing smoothly, but you've got to go through the first few days, laying out your offense, working on serve receive, doing some drills and letting the team get a sense of how things are."
Friday's opening session kicks off a series of two-a-day practices for the team, leading up to the start of classes on Aug. 18. The Tigers are set to open the 2008 season Aug, 29-30 as the team hosts the War Eagle Invitational. Auburn opens the season against Samford at 7 p.m., Aug. 29.