Young talent is plentiful in the Omaha volleyball team’s 2016 freshmen class.
In fact, this year’s roster features a new record for the most incoming freshmen on a roster for head coach Rose Shires.
The newcomers on the team will have their work cut out for them with a fall schedule that will be more than competitive and a squad with roles that need to be filled quickly.
The freshmen for the 2016 season include: defensive specialist Ashley Smith from Iowa City, Iowa; setter Hannah Angeli from Maplewood, Minnesota; outside hitter Chloe Dousette from St. Paul, Minnesota; middle blocker Daria Taylor from Rock Island, Illinois; right side hitter Macy Anderson from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; defensive specialist Olivia Spanton from Savage, Minn.; middle blocker from Holdrege, Neb. Ellie Brown; and red-shirt freshmen right side Meagen Roth from Lincoln, Neb.
The Mavericks are in a dire need of players to step up and fill spots at the libero position, as well as middle blockers. Another starting hitter to join the rotation is also being sought out by Shires, due to the loss of outside hitter Gessica Gdowski for the season.
“I see Ellie Brown and Daria Taylor in the middle, they’re doing very well,” Shires said, also complimenting the effort she has seen out of freshmen Ashley Smith, Chloe Dousette and Hannah Angeli. “I just think there’s a lot of people stepping up and really filling some good roles for us.”
The new group of freshmen know that they have to make an impact early while still getting used to the pace of the Division I level.
“The struggle for them is the inexperience and that’s something we need to get on the court and get better at and that’ll make up for the inexperience,” said Shires.
The Mavericks have been practicing for just over two weeks now as a team, still acclimating to playing with new faces while the freshmen are still learning the system. There will be some bumps in the road along the way while the majority of the team is young, but the coaching staff, as well as the players, are ready to weather the storm that comes.
Multiple freshmen said the coaching staff was a big factor in them choosing Omaha.
“I loved the coaching staff, it’s what really sold me,” Ashley Smith said. “I had offers from other places, but just didn’t feel like home, and then when I came here I felt like I was wanted and that the coaches saw a future in me so having someone believe in you is the greatest feeling.”
Hannah Angeli agreed by expressing her love for coach Shires and coach Karen. “They have the right amount of intensity and love for you as a player and they want to help you as a person too,” Angeli said.
Omaha’s campus was another big element that played a part in luring coach Shires’ new talent to Omaha.
While there are already plenty of reasons the University of Nebraska-Omaha would be one of the top choices in a new recruit’s mind, UNO is still purchasing land and making plans for the future.
A new arena, another upscale dorm with a five-story parking garage and other multi-million dollar structures are in the works, which plans to be surrounded by a public park and golf course.
The Mavericks kick things off at home (Baxter Arena) Thursday-with a marquee matchup against Iowa State at 7 p.m., followed by the annual Omaha Classic which is being hosted by UNO for the first time ever at Baxter Arena.