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Bouncing back: UNCW volleyball hopes to right the ship in 2017

Like many UNCW teams, the Volley Hawks will field a team full of freshmen

Madison+Peters%2C+left%2C+and+Sydney+Brock%2C+right%2C+block+a+spike+attempt+from+a+Barton+player+in+UNCW%27s+exhibition+game+vs.+Barton+College+on+Aug.+20.
Madison Peters, left, and Sydney Brock, right, block a spike attempt from a Barton player in UNCW's exhibition game vs. Barton College on Aug. 20.

Madison Peters, left, and Sydney Brock, right, block a spike attempt from a Barton player in UNCW's exhibition game vs. Barton College on Aug. 20.

UNCW Athletic Communications

UNCW Athletic Communications

Madison Peters, left, and Sydney Brock, right, block a spike attempt from a Barton player in UNCW's exhibition game vs. Barton College on Aug. 20.

Brandon Sans, Assistant Sports Editor

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When UNC Wilmington begins its 2017 volleyball season on Saturday, it will do so with the youthfulness that has been a trend for UNCW sports this year.

Only five Seahawks remain from the team’s Colonial Athletic Association championship two years ago. After following up that championship with a 7-9 record in conference play last year, the new faces may offer more long-term potential.

UNCW coach Amy Bambenek, entering her ninth season, is tasked with integrating seven new Seahawks (six freshmen) into a team that lost seven players – including five seniors – from a year ago. Middle hitter Sydney Brock is the team’s lone senior.

After starting her freshman year with 59 kills in 17 games, Brock had her season cut short with a knee energy that kept her on the sidelines her sophomore year. She bounced back in 2016, starting all 28 matches and finishing the season with 189 kills and 105 total blocks.

Brock will now take on an additional role: mentor. With a young team, Brock is aware of the challenge she faces as a leader and role model. It is nothing she has shied away from thus far, as she balances her responsibilities in her final year at UNCW.

“It definitely feels different,” she said. “Even though this is really my second full year playing I feel old in the game. Individually, I don’t ever want to take a set off. As a team, I want (us) to be all-in every day.”

Two returners ready to take on prominent roles are outside hitter Maddy Kline and middle blocker Kendall Bender. Bender enters her sophomore year after earning CAA All-Freshman honors with 73 blocks in 2016.

Kline, a junior, is eager to take on a leadership role after breaking out last year with a career-high 278 kills and 20 aces. She’s using her experiences from her freshman year to better understand and help her younger teammates who she said, “are really talented and will surprise some people.”

Bambenek pointed out the diverse skill set among the six freshmen. She said the next step in their development is making them more well-rounded players.

“We’ve got some with very high athletic ability, some that are really strong communicators,” said Bambenek. “I think we have bits and pieces of what we want (from) players in our freshmen.”

UNCW will begin its season Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against Loyola Maryland in the Springhill Suites Mayfaire Invitational. It will play Appalachian State later in the evening at 7:30 p.m. before capping the round-robin tournament with a game vs. Davidson on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Assistant Sports Editor Brandon Sans can be found on Twitter @Bsans10. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to [email protected]

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Bouncing back: UNCW volleyball hopes to right the ship in 2017