Terry Gamble returns to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) volleyball court this season to take over the Blinn College Buccaneers, ranked No. 20 in the preseason poll.
Gamble is no stranger to earning a spot at the NJCAA National Championships and after Blinn's two-year absence, the Buccaneers hope to make a return although that is not the primary focus Gamble's first season here.
"My goals for the program are to be the best that we can be on the floor, in the classroom and in the community," Gamble said. "I have been blessed and fortunate to have won national championships and the only thing I have ever asked of my players are those three things. If we can do that, the wins and losses take care of themselves."
Gamble left the NCAA Division I ranks to return to the junior college level where he has coached seven teams to nationals and earned three national titles, earning him a spot in the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2007.
Gamble will have five returning sophomores to lean on as Julia Fritz (Spring, Texas) Roxanne Morris (Goliad, Texas), Claire Chapman (Tarkington, Texas), Samantha Boatman (Houston, Texas) and Darian Ibarra (Mission, Texas) will look to lead the Buccaneers.
"All the freshman and sophomores are learning a new system together, but our upperclassman are doing a good job of teaching the younger girls what being a college athlete is about," Gamble said.
Fritz returns after earning second team all-conference accolades last year as the team's starting libero and leading Blinn with 611 digs, the fifth-most digs in a season in Blinn history. Outside hitters Morris and Chapman earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season. Morris recorded 179 kills, 110 digs and was third on the team in assisted blocks with 70, while Chapman was second on the team with 269 kills and earned 103 digs.
"Our defense is very strong this year and Fritz is a key part of it," Gamble said. "Morris is our team leader and can play from the right and left side, and Chapman was having a great preseason until her injury so we look forward to having her back."
Last season, Boatman led the Buccaneers with 614 assists and Ibarra recorded 35 digs and nine aces in 24 matches.
Sophomore transfers Shelby Sheets (San Antonio, Texas) and Lauren Symington (Phoenix, Ariz.) are expected to contribute significantly as outside hitters. Sheets transferred from Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she totaled 58 kills and led the team with a kills per set average of 2.86, while Symington transferred from Northeastern Oklahoma State University and recorded 103 kills and 77 blocks.
"Our transfers are going to be high-impact players on this team right away," Gamble said. "Sheets can really play and has the potential to be one of the best players in the conference and Symington is going to be one of our middles that is completely solid."
Nine freshman join the team the this season including middle blockers Jasmine McLemore (San Antonio, Texas), Taylor Henderson (Austin, Texas), Lucy Schaefer (Tomball, Texas) and Makayla Brening (Phoenix, Ariz.), defensive specialists Savannah Gibbs (Hoover, Ala.) and Chloe Mullins (Tarkington, Texas), outside hitters Rachel Barnett (Lewisville, Texas) and Cheyenne Te'o (Laie, Hawaii), and right side hitter Hannah Ness (College Station, Texas).
"We have a great group of freshman and they are just going to get better all year," Gamble said. "Gibbs and Mullins are a part of our strong defense and are really ahead of the game and McLemore is really standing out offensively."
The Buccaneers open the season Wednesday, Aug. 22, at Trinity Valley Community College at 6 p.m. Blinn College volleyball's first home game of the season will be on the Buccaneers' new home court in the Kruse Center on Friday, Aug. 31, when they face Victoria College at 12:30 p.m. in the Kruse Kickoff Klassic.
"Our team is learning a lot right now, but this is a great group of girls, so my expectation this season is for them to play hard every single day and to represent Blinn College with the upmost character," Gamble said.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 38 NJCAA national championships since 1987.