Volleyball Position Preview: Libero/Defensive Specialist

Aug. 18, 2014


Mary Hannah Arrington is one of four playing vying for playing time at libero. (Zach Bland photo)

With the 2014 volleyball season around the corner, AuburnTigers.com takes a look at each spot on the floor. The first installment takes a look at Auburn's liberos and defensive specialists.
 
AUBURN, Ala.
- Junior Mary Hannah Arrington, sophomore Taylor Schill and freshmen Tate Pember and Kelly Stewart are all competing to succeed Sarah Wroblicky as the Tigers' defensive stalwart in the back row.

Wroblicky finished her distinguished four-year career by setting the single-season record for digs (493) during 2013 for the Tigers. She also capped off her career with 1,238 total digs, a mark which ranks fourth in school history, all while averaging 3.65 digs per set, the second-best ratio in the Auburn record book.

"In the past we haven't used as many defensive players in our system, but I expect we'll take full advantage of that this season," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "Having to replace someone like Sarah Wroblicky, who was one of the best liberos in the league last year, is hard, but I think we've got some players that have worked very hard to fill that void."
 
Arrington returns with the most experience of any player on the team, appearing in 47 career matches. The junior has been used mostly as a late-set replacement to provide a defensive presence on the back row. Arrington has also shown the ability to attack from the back, posting six kills and 11 digs in a 2012 match at Texas A&M.
 
"Mary Hannah, she's worked very hard up to this point," Nold said. "She didn't get a lot of time on the court last year because of the offense that we ran, but she's taken some huge strides in the offseason. She's pushed for playing time at the libero spot and at one of the defensive spots throughout camp."
 
The Tigers also return Schill to their system for the 2014 season. Last season, she appeared in four matches during her freshman season and provides Auburn with a vocal presence on the floor.
 
"Taylor is very athletic and she is probably one of the best energy players we have. She keeps us going and she'll have a chance to earn a role," Nold said of the sophomore.


Kelly Stewart will be a key player in the back row for the Tigers this season. (Zach Bland photo)
   
The freshmen duo of Pember and Stewart will get their first look at collegiate volleyball this season. Stewart is a versatile athlete that earned first-team All-America honors by PrepVolleyball.com during her senior season at St. Pius X High School in Tomball, Texas. Pember led North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Ga., to a pair of semifinal appearances in 2011 and 2012, setting the school records for single-match, single-season and career digs.
 
"At all spots we're going to be looking at playing freshmen. Both are very talented and have played high levels of volleyball before coming in," Nold said. "Kelly is a great athlete that can cover a lot of court and Tate is a very good passer. I think they'll both find some time in our system and we'll see how that goes as the year progresses. I think they both will be a big part of what we do."
 
Up next: Who will be Auburn's setter?
 
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