Pack volleyball opens practice

Aug 12, 2013

As practice begins for the 2013 Wolf Pack volleyball team on Monday, two things are clear, this group looks different and it wants a different result.

"Everybody stayed this summer," senior setter Dana Holt said. "I mean everybody."

Sophomore and an All-Mountain West middle blocker in 2012, Tessa Lea'ea seconded her setter's confident demeanor.

"This is my last chance to play with Dana and Grace (Anxo), and I don't plan on doing anything but sending them out on top," she said.

All three players came into the program before the 2010 season, but Lea'ea redshirted during her first season and is a junior. Holt and Anxo are joined by another senior, Kadie Miller, who will be wearing the silver and blue for the first time.

When prodded for why the attitude on and off the court is exceedingly positive and energetic, Holt pointed to the host of newcomers (nine) on the roster and the opportunity this group of upperclassmen has to lead.

"The energy from the new players has been awesome," she said. "When you put the chemistry in the locker room together with the time and effort we have put in getting ready prior to the start of practice, there is no other option then to be a better team, then to leave this place a winner."

Ruth Lawanson, in her third year as head coach of the Pack, is as excited as her players to get the 2013 season underway. She has looked to the trio of upperclassmen to take the reins of the group, and is pleased with the way they have responded.

"Our leaders have been exceptional this summer," she said. "We may be young this season, but we are very athletic and with the upperclassmen at the forefront, the energy in the gym has created a highly competitive atmosphere."



Lawanson also pointed to the additions of Aven Lee and Sonny Perez to the coaching staff as reasons for excitement in the Virginia Street Gym.

Lee spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. On the court, she focused on the team's passing and defense. Her responsibilities also included travel, academics, admissions, eligibility & compliance, recruiting, match scouting and pre-season and tournament coordinating.

With more than 10 years of coaching experience under her belt, Lee mixes her knowledge from a decade on the sideline with four years of playing experience at Hawai'i, where she starred as a libero/defensive specialist from 1998-2002.

Perez brings almost 30 years of experience to Reno in 2013. He has had a great deal of success at various developmental levels, most recently holding the girls head coaching position at Pacific Premier Volleyball Academy in Fresno, Calif. He coached the club to a 15-1 record and a Far Western Bronze Championship in 2013.

Nevada returns four starters and a total of eight letterwinners, and welcomes six freshmen, two transfers and one player new to the team into the fold. Lea'ea is Nevada's lone all-conference selection coming back in 2013. Sophomore Kara Kasser, who split time at libero with the then-senior Kelly Chang last season, should see her role increase this season.

Middle Blockers

Lea'ea, who started all 29 matches for Nevada in 2012, will be expected to continue her strong production in the front court this season. Her 3.14 kills-per-set ranked second among all Mountain West middle blockers a season ago. A strong two-way player, she will be looked at to continue to provide a defensive presence as well.

Middle/right side hitter and sophomore Sam Willoughby will also see some time in the middle of the Pack lineup, as she predominately moves back to her natural position as a middle blocker. Last season, she played in 28 matches with 16 starts.

Two newcomers, 6-2 Kathryn Groenweghe and 6-0 Kiera Brunson, will compete for time in the middle behind Lea'ea and Willoughby. Both players were highly recruited out of the club circuit in the Pacific Northwest, turning down multiple offers to wear the Silver and Blue. Groenweghe attended Sherwood (Ore.) High School, while Brunson is a graduate of Kentridge High School in Renton, Wash.

Outside Hitters

Returners Anxo and Sommer King will lead a talented group of outside hitters this season. Anxo, a three-year letterwinner, will be a part of Nevada's starting lineup for the fourth consecutive season. Alongside Lea'ea and Holt, she should provide continuity and consistency in the Pack attack.

Anxo, a Reno native, started all 29 matches a season ago and recorded 180 kills. She also chipped in with 146 digs and 26 service aces. King, a sophomore, started eight matches during her freshman campaign and appeared in 18 overall.  Three newcomers will compete for time alongside Anxo and King on the outside. Kinsey Minter, Madison Morell and Donna Greely will all have the opportunity to compete for playing time as practice begins early this week.

Morell will be freshman in 2013, while Minter and Greely join the Pack after having exhausted one and two years of eligibility, respectively. Morell is a graduate of Plano (Texas) Senior High School. Minter spent last season starring at Glendale Community College in her hometown of Glendale, Ariz. Greely is a former standout at Marin (Calif.) Catholic High School and will be returning to the court for the Pack this season. She has been a student at Nevada for the last three years.


Holt and Taylor Rothfuss will compete throughout camp for the starting spot at the helm of the Wolf Pack attack. Both players started at setter last season, with Holt taking the court with the first team on 20 occasions. She averaged 9.01 assists-per-set, leading all Wolf Pack players. A toe injury hampered Holt in the later stages of the season, but the senior is ready to compete for the starting job as practice begins.

Rothfuss averaged 8.06 assists-per-set in her nine starts as the Pack's setter during her freshman campaign.

Freshman and Sparks native Lyndsey Anderson will be the third setter on the 2013 roster. She joins the Pack after starring at Spanish Springs High School for the last four seasons and is the reigning 4A state player of the year. With a heated competition in place between Holt and Rothfuss, Anderson may use a redshirt in 2013.

Liberos/Defensive Specialists

With the graduation of four-year letterwinner and starter Kelly Chang at libero, Nevada will look to Kasser, Megan Mize and others to fill the role as the main passer of the 2013 squad.

Kasser saw time at libero and in the rotation as a defensive specialist last season, playing in all 29 of Nevada's matches as a true freshman. Her 273 digs was second only to Chang and she chipped in with 30 assists as well.

Mize, who was also a freshman last season, started in the back row on five occasions and made 23 total appearances. She totaled 18 digs in 54 sets played.

Freshmen Madison Thorpe and Nicole Burdo will compete for time, with the possibility of a redshirt season for Burdo being discussed among the Pack coaching staff. Miller, joining the Pack for her senior season, will also be in the mix for playing time in the back row.

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