A new era in Troy volleyball is set to begin in just over a week as the Trojans and the new coaching staff have begun preseason practices in preparation for the 2017 season.
First-year Head Coach Josh Lauer will be looking to lead Troy to its first winning season since 2012, when it won 21 matches. Lauer will be doing that with the help of three seniors, including defensive specialist Avalon Nero.
Nero was third on the team last season in digs per set with 1.95. She stands to improve significantly from Lauer who was a defensive assistant at Georgia before arriving in Troy.
“He has helped a lot,” Nero told the Tropolitan. “On the first day I got in, I already felt that I had learned a lot. He’s very knowledgeable.”
The Trojans were respectable on defense last season, finishing sixth in the Sun Belt in digs and third in blocks.
The primary downfall from 2016’s woeful 10-win season was offensive play. Poor passing led to an abundance of errors and limited scoring opportunities.
As a result, Troy finished 10th in the conference in both kills and assists.
Nero says that practice has been focused on the team running “serve and receive drills, and working on our passing following a serve.”
“We’re working on our hitters and servers going all out and not worry about mistakes,” Nero said. “Not think about making a mistake.”
Troy’s two most productive offensive players in Symone Shaw and Sarah Landis have moved on, leaving a 462-kill hole in the Trojans’ offensive repertoire.
As for who will fill that void, Nero believes a new face will emerge.
“Cheyenne Hayes has really stepped up,” Nero said. “She’s going to score a lot. Lauren Long and Savannah Moore are also offensive threats.”
Hayes is entering her first season at Troy after a successful high school career that saw her win three state titles at Trinity Christian in Newnan, Georgia.
She led the entire country in 2015 with a .599 hitting percentage and was named to the Georgia Independent School Association All-State team all four years.
Nero herself can provide the team with scoring from the server position. She led the team with 37 serving aces and was fourth in the Sun Belt with .32 serving aces per set.
The coaching staff has also put an emphasis on preventing injuries after injuries have held players out of games and practices.
“We’ve been doing a lot of preventative work with our shoulders and knees,” Nero said. “It’s helping us prevent non-contact injuries.”