PUEBLO, Colo. (September 3, 2014) ~ The beginning of a new season brings renewed optimism and excitement for programs all across the country. It is no different for the Colorado State University-Pueblo volleyball program and head coach Jen Gomez as they prepare to embark on the 2014 season Sept. 5-6 at the Midwestern State Tournament in Wichita Falls, Texas.
CSU-Pueblo is coming off a 10-19 (7-12 RMAC) record in 2013, while finishing 10th in the league standings. In the 2014 RMAC preseason coaches poll, the Pack received 71 total points and were picked ninth.
The ThunderWolves feature a strong core of returning players as well as a talented group of newcomers who will look to make an immediate impact this season. Morgan Wilkening (Jr., Fleming, Colo.), Alex Sansavera (R-Jr., San Antonio, Texas), Alex Winkler (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Tanja Ranilovic (R-So., Belgrade, Serbia) headline the players who are back this year for the Pack. Also returning for CSU-Pueblo is Jordan Bruere (Jr., Rio Rancho, N.M.), Katie Burnett (So., Austin, Texas), Mikala Morris (R-Fr., Tempe, Ariz.) and Megan Schultz (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.).
"Morgan (Wilkening) is a hardworking, gritty player who just wants to win," commented Gomez. "Alex (Sansavera) is a very crafty setter and brings confidence and a steadying demeanor to our squad. In the middle will be Alex (Winkler) and Megan (Schultz) who received a lot of playing time last season and we'll look to them to solidify the middle again this year. Tanja has really come on this preseason and has improved on both the offensive and defensive sides of the net."
Transfers Mariangel Perez (So., Catia La Mar, Venezuela) and Oni Lattin (Jr., Houston, Texas) as well as former ThunderWolves' women's basketball player Taylor Fox (Sr., Santa Cruz, Calif.) enter their first year with the program with hopes of contributing right away. Joining Perez, Lattin and Fox are six freshmen, Kylie Camacho (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Courtney Gopinath (Grand Junction, Colo.), PuaLehua Keola (Honolulu, Hawaii), Brooklin LeBon (Frederick, Colo.), Elena Michalski (Longmont, Colo.) and Melissa Nichols (McKinney, Texas), who will add depth to the lineup.
"Taylor (Fox) has great size and will benefit us a lot on the block," mentioned Gomez. "Oni (Lattin) is such a great athlete who has worked very hard and will bring a lot of excitement to the court. Mariangel (Perez) is very strong on the outside and hits with a heavy arm."
A challenging slate of opponents await the Pack this season. Two of the teams on the ThunderWolves' schedule this year, University of Nebraska-Kearney (9th) and Colorado School of Mines (18th), are ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) preseason top 25, while Metro State University and Colorado Mesa University are both in the others receiving votes category. CSU-Pueblo will play 13 matches at Massari Arena this year, including four tilts as part of the CSU-Pueblo/UCCS Classic. The Pack will take to the road for 15 contests.