Sophomore Emily Klitzke is one of Auburn's returning starters from the 2013 season (Auburn Athletics photo)
With the 2014 volleyball season around the corner, AuburnTigers.com takes a look at each spot on the floor. The third installment takes a look at Auburn's depth at middle blocker.
AUBURN, Ala. - The middle continues to be a strength for the Auburn volleyball team heading into the 2014 season. The group is likely the deepest position on the squad in terms of depth and several players are looking to make a major impact at the net.
"We are going to try to do some different things this year," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We've got several players that can play multiple positions and we're going to full take advantage of that up front."
Two sophomores -Stephanie Campbell (Wildwood, Mo.) and Emily Klitzke (Shawano, Wis.) - lead the way for the Tigers in the front row as the pair returns for their second year in Nold's system. Campbell became the first freshman to start every match and play in every set for the Tigers since 2009.
"Steph played on the right side a good bit last year just because of how our lineup was set up," Nold said of the sophomore. "This year, I think she'll stick in the middle because that is where she has a ton of experience and she's are best attacker coming back."
Klitzke, another versatile player on the front row, started the final 16 matches on the right side but looks to play a bigger role in the middle of the floor for Auburn in 2014. During her freshman season, she finished third on the squad with a .254 hitting percentage and posted 12 kills in Auburn's home win against LSU.
"With Emily, she's got the experience from playing on the right side for the first time last season," Nold said. "She's always been a middle and we've also mixed her around on the left side. For us, she's very stable and great blocker, plus she's got a knack for scoring."
Auburn added Cincinnati transfer Breanna Barksdale (San Diego, Calif.) during the offseason and the sophomore looks to make an immediate impact during her first season on The Plains. Barksdale started 27 matches for the Bearcats a year ago and finished with a .292 attacking percentage during conference play, all while adding 180 kills in 29 matches.
"Having Breanna's experience helps because you don't want to run a whole team of freshman out onto the court every night," Nold said. "She got into volleyball late, but she's got a year under her belt. She's a competitive kid and as we've added new things, she's made improvements. As times goes on, she has a lot of room to get better because her ceiling is so high."
Breanna Barksdale looks to provide the Tigers with an immmediate impact at middle blocker. (Zach Bland photo)
Freshman Macy Reece (Hendersonville, Tenn.) gives the Tigers another option in the middle of the floor. Reece was a 2013 USA Today All-USA High School third-team selection after her senior season at Goodpasture Christian School, ranking in the top 10 nationally with 199 solo blocks. She finished her career with a 50-0 undefeated season which led Goodpasture to a Tennessee state title, setting school records for kills, blocks, aces and hitting percentage.
"Macy has the ability to attack from a lot of different spots on the court," Nold said. "She's got great size and she'll get stronger as we go on. She's very experienced in the game and I think that will definitely help her settle in this season."
Up next: Finding new outside hitters
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