This season, second-year head coach Ron Burt believes he has put together a team that is capable of winning the Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference title.
“The one thing that we didn’t have last year was a lot of options to move players around,” Burt said. “When I went out and recruited this year, my main goal was to get girls that could play more than one position. Everyone that I brought can play two, three, or four positions of the court. If a girl is having a bad day, I have moves that I can make to bring someone in and they may have a good day. Last year, I didn’t have that option. This year, we have people fighting for positions, and that makes girls step up because they want to stay on the court.”
TC will have the tough task of replacing GCACC Player of the Year Shalitha Swain. The second-year coach believes the recruits that he brought in during the off-season can fill her role.
“The new girls that I have coming in- one girl is not going to fill her shoes, but having numbers will help,” Burt said. “We have a good group of core girls coming back. Everyone we have coming back played considerable minutes last year, so they are battle tested.”
TC has six newcomers on this season’s team including five freshmen and a junior college transfer.
“They have all played at a high level in club volleyball,” Burt said. “I am expecting them to step right in and contribute. I have a local girl name Briel Dawson that went to Marbury High School, which is outside of Montgomery. I have two freshmen from Los Angeles. Tanaira Rounds, and her friend from LA Blair Wheeler, is also a freshman. I have a freshman, KeShawna Ximines, from Delaware, Ohio, that’s an outside hitter. I have a freshman from Brown Deer, Wis., on the right side. My first junior college transfer comes from California. She was all-conference in her second year there, so she comes from a good program. California volleyball is a lot different than East Coast volleyball. I am real confident in her. She can play a number of positions, so I am going to be asking a lot from her.”
The Lady Tornadoes only return four players off last season’s team that went 22-15 and finished third in the conference.
Gabby Powell returns for her season. Last season, she recorded 917 assists as a setter.
Paris Powell had a solid season for TC in 2011. As a sophomore, she recorded 406 digs and 206 kills.
Burt expects the Powell duo to have another great season.
“Gabby Powell was second in the conference in assists,” Burt said. “I am expecting the same numbers. Paris Powell is returning. She played outside for me last year, but I am going to transfer her to my libero. She is one of the best passers on the team, and she is all about hustle. She will do whatever she has to do to keep the ball off the floor, and that is what you need in a libero."
The Lady Tornadoes also have two front line players returning.
Mobile native Zia Mose returns to the team after sitting out last season. Raven Black had a solid season coming off the bench. Last season, Black recorded 86 blocks and 84 kills.
Burt said he is going to need both players to play big upfront.
“Zia Mose red shirted last year and she is coming back,” Burt said. “She will be a big help offensively and defensively. She is 5-foot-9, but she plays a lot bigger. She jumps pretty well; she will be a big factor at the net blocking. She also has a pretty good arm swing, so she will hit the ball and make it hard for the defense. Raven Black is returning. She played all year for me as a middle blocker and I am expecting big things from her again. We are working on her, so she can improve just a little bit defensively. Offensively, she did well for me last year, but defensively we need to improve. She has stepped up to the challenge.”
TC opens the season Saturday in the Reinhardt University Tournament.