Young volleyball team hopes to gain experience in 2007

In any team sport, a young team can have trouble finding both leadership and an identity to call its own, and the USF

volleyball team is certainly a young team.

The roster consists of five freshmen and five sophomores – all of whom could see considerable playing time this season. However, the Bulls also boast two of the best players in the Big East Conference – junior Stephanie Augustavo and USF’s only senior player, Kristina Fabris.

Augustavo and Fabris have taken the young players under their wings during the off-season. So far, head volleyball coach Claire Lessinger could not be happier with the results.

“Ever since the last ball dropped last year, they’ve taken the initiative to making sure to set the standard for not only how this team trained, but also how they communicate,” Lessinger said. “They’ve done all these things in the off-season, and it’s carried over to where we are right now.”

Augustavo and Fabris have taken many strides to help the Bulls improve for the upcoming season. While the work that they have done is noticeable on the court, their impact as leaders is just as evident off the court.

“Our newcomers are anxious to play, but also nervous about playing in a new system,” Lessinger said. “Stephanie and Kristina have been helping the new players out off the court, which is a huge step to becoming a leader on the team. Those two let the newcomers know what to expect, and what my standards are.”

Although the role of team leader may be a role they are unaccustomed to, both Augustavo and Fabris are more than ready to be the players that the underclassmen look up to.

“I think it’s a cool experience for me, because we’ve been in the shoes of the younger players before,” Fabris said. “Being in a leadership role is something new, but it’s also something that I think we both accept.”

Augustavo’s feelings toward being a team leader echo those of the team’s lone senior.

“I think it’s great because we have a lot of knowledge about the program, and we know a lot of things that we can teach these young players,” Augustavo said. “By us speaking up and not being afraid to lead by example, I think we are going to have a good effect on the players.”

If this young Bulls team is going to learn, then they will learn from two of the best players on the team. Last season, Fabris was in the team’s top three in kills, assists, digs, blocks and points. Fabris was one of the most consistent players on the Bulls roster.

Last season, Augustavo led the team in digs, which is one of the most important categories on a team. A dig is when a player gets low to the ground and “digs” the ball up to the setters. A dig not only prevents the opposing team from scoring, but it also gives the player’s team possession of the ball.

With two players who performed so consistently anchoring the team, Lessinger feels that even though the Bulls are young, they have already developed great chemistry.

“I have to credit them (Augustavo and Fabris) for doing everything possible for creating team cohesion,” Lessinger said. “I have seven newcomers who are playing and communicating as a team, and I have to credit the upperclassmen for that. These two are doing everything they can to help set the tone for this team.”

Even though they are in an

unfamiliar role, both Augustavo and Fabris feel the Bulls have the talent to have a great season.

“I would love to finish in the top-five in the conference, and I think we can do it,” Fabris said. “As long as we continue to build good team chemistry I feel like we have a shot to challenge every team in the

conference.”

That chemistry will be put to the test, as the Bulls aren’t going to take anyone by surprise this season.

“Last year we came in ranked at the bottom of the conference, and we proved a lot of people wrong,” Augustavo said. “Now we’re in the middle and it’s up to us to go out there and prove ourselves to everybody all over again. We have the talent to beat the top teams in the conference – we just need to go out there and play our game.”

The Bulls have a roster featuring several talented players, and with the leadership of both Stephanie Augustavo and Kristina Fabris, USF has a chance to improve upon last season’s first-round exit from the Big East tournament.

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