Boise, Idaho -- Boise State head volleyball coach, Shawn Garus, goes into a year of momentum, recognition, and expectation. Heading into his seventh year, the volleyball team has been headed on an upward trajectory, finishing last year fourth in the mountain west. That was the best finish - so far - for the Broncos in the Mountain West. Having lost seniors who were close to the program - and leaders - new athletes look to fill those roles and shoulder the burden of the chance to do something special. These young Broncos are recognized athletes who are talented, dedicated to self-improvement, and look to be winners. With the imperative to win, and be successful now, the Broncos are aiming to make a splash in the Mountain West.
When a team shows improvement over a time that is reflected in tangible wins, it is also good to know that the talent on the roster is also acknowledged by others. With the current Broncos decorated with post-seeason awards, the overall strength of the team can be witnessed not only in statistics, but in potential. Picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference, along with a first place vote, the run through the Mountain West will take all of the efforts the Broncos have.
At the close of every year, there are those seniors that leave a team with holes. With those seniors leave experience and influence, but they also leave a chance for newcomers to step up and become those needed athletes. Alyssa Gammel (a transfer from Virginia Tech) was an important role-player for the Broncos as a serve-receive. Because of her role as the Bronco who is responsible for the first contact of the ball, an athlete will be expected to rise and be that focal point. Gammel was a two sport athlete for Boise State playing both indoor and sand volleyball. During her career she had made four regular season all-tournament teams. Filling her role is going to be a focal point for the Broncos going into this year.
With the current potential talent, who will take the reigns? Development of players does take time, however there are some players who are ready to play when they first step on campus. For Coach Garus, the process of playing an athlete is about listening to what the player's goals are, the academic plan, and whether or not there is an athlete in front of her to take away playing time.
So who is ready to step up?
With any new prospective class, there are always players that exceed expectations and show the talent early enough to play immediately. When Sabryn Roberts was in high school, she was already a star. According to the Daily News, "Roberts is a powerful outside hitter who is capable of carrying an entire program despite just turning 15." She was a sophomore at the time leading her high school to the top of the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA poll. Immediately an impact player that, according to Coach Garus, has the potential to fill the role left by Gammel. Though a true freshman, Roberts can be the spark that leads the Broncos to their desired outcome.
But Roberts is not alone. There are individuals already on the roster who have shown that they can be a principal player on the squad. The recognition already obtained by these players is impressive and cannot be overlooked.
Coming out of high school, Sierra Nobley was a force. She was one of the highest regarded recruits to ever commit to Boise State, and her impact was felt immediately. When she earned first team All-Mountain West Conference and Freshman of the Year accolades (the first for the Broncos), she had 4.33 kills per set, averaged 1.83 digs and .41 blocks per set. She is also picked for the MWC preseason volleyball team. As a true sophomore, she already looks to be one of the best Broncos to put on a jersey.
Having a chance to represent as a MWC first-teamer and represent the MWC overseas are two great opportunities. One that Coach Garus loves. To have such representation is a testament to the budding talent that the Broncos have on the roster for this year. Maddy O’Donnell was fourth in the conference last year in Aces with averaging 0.29 per set. Last year O’Donnell led the team in blocks with 105 overall, and had a career high of 22 kills at Idaho (which is appropriate). As a junior, O’Donnell looks to follow up a strong sophomore campaign and help the Broncos earn the first place vote.
Another important role that could be filled by a younger Bronco would be the libero position. The back row specialist is free to enter at any time and has many flexibilities, however she may not attack or defend in the front row. An Idaho native could very well be that position for the Broncos. Maddi Osburn, from Vallivue HS, may be an athlete that other teams anticipate having a key year. She appeared in 29 matches last year, starting in 21.
Though young talent does have to fill leadership roles, having established seniors on the team who are current leaders cannot be understated. In her final year Sarah Baugh has a chance to finish something special while at Boise State. A senior setter, she made the All-Mountain West team, Academic All-Mountain West, and also represented the Broncos in international competition. For Garus, the opportunity to have a senior setter who is constantly touching the ball is one that has to be taken. With her 92 matches played at setter, Baugh will be an athlete looked at to be key in this years run.
With high potential comes high expectations. And with that "[expectation] is the buzz right now" for Garus. The emphasis is to be good NOW. And with the current make up of the team? They can be. Incoming freshman that will keep the Broncos rolling going forward. Redshirt freshman, sophomores, and juniors as solid mainstays. And seniors that will leave a legacy. As Coach Garus says,
"We want to meet all expectations that we can this year...this is our time let's be as good as we can be right now."
For all the potential and capability of how good the Broncos can be, it is still up to the players to execute and provide legs to that expectation.