The App State volleyball team lost some key players from last season to graduation, including outside hitters Emily Corrigan and Jess Keller and setter Paige Brown. On a roster of 18, eight are new to the Mountaineers this year and there are more questions than answers when it comes to who will be on the court for the black and gold this season.
On top of a young roster, two of the most experienced players on the team are out with injury. In a time that is dominated with inexperience and mystery, head coach Matt Ginipro will look to his core group of seniors for leadership and guidance.
“More than anything, we are pushing them for leadership,” Ginipro said. “For example I think Ashton [Gregory] is doing a really good job being really vocal sitting on her chair rehabbing her knee. Just getting everybody together, that is the biggest thing I am throwing on their plate.”
Middle blocker Ashton Gregory had some of the most significant playing time last season but will start this season out due to injury.
“I tore my meniscus really bad in April and had it repaired and then I was on my way back, it turns out I had another tear, a bone bruise and an inflamed fat pad,” Gregory said. “It is about four to six weeks for this and then hopefully I’ll be back out there.”
With Gregory out with injury, the Mountaineers front line is left extremely inexperienced. She will be a key addition once she returns to the court around the start of conference play.
Outside hitter Sloan Evans is also out right now rehabilitating from an offseason shoulder surgery.
“It is typically a six to eight month recovery,” Evans said. “I am kind of in a progression state to getting fully cleared. I am on an upward climb from here but it should be hopefully within the next month.”
Libero’s Olivia Reed and Kati Stammen are also battling small, nagging injuries right now but both are expected to be ready for the Black and Gold Invitational Tournament to start the season next weekend. Stammen has the most significant playing time of the senior class next to Ashton Gregory and will be an important factor in keeping the Mountaineers on track in the absence of her teammates.
In the midst of being banged up as a group and having so much expected of them, this class of seniors is just focused on playing and leading their team.
“Three of four of us are injured so we kind of take on different roles this year,” Evans said. “We can’t physically be doing everything everyone else is doing so we have to [be vocal].”
If there was one message this group of seniors had for their teammates, it is this: “Beat Arkansas State.”
“We have yet to [beat] them since we entered the Sun Belt so I just feel like that would be the icing on the cake,” Reed said.
The Red Wolves defeated App for the Sun Belt championship last season, creating a sore spot for the team.
They also added that their key to beating Arkansas State is raucous crowd support.
“It’s going to be our first game of the Sun Belt season, it is in Varsity Gym,” Stammen said. “We’ve only played [in there] one time and we need a big crowd.”
Story By: Brooks Maynard, Sports Reporter