Volleyball: 2016 season preview

After making it to the Conference USA tournament three straight times, the Owls need to show improvement by making a push past the first round of the postseason.

Redshirt+sophomore+Gabrielle+Dixon+will+step+into+a+bigger+role+near+the+net+for+her+team+this+upcoming+season+with+the+graduation+of+Brittney+Brown.+Max+Jackson+%7C+Staff+Photographer
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Volleyball: 2016 season preview

Redshirt sophomore Gabrielle Dixon will step into a bigger role near the net for her team this upcoming season with the graduation of Brittney Brown. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Redshirt sophomore Gabrielle Dixon will step into a bigger role near the net for her team this upcoming season with the graduation of Brittney Brown. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Max Jackson

Redshirt sophomore Gabrielle Dixon will step into a bigger role near the net for her team this upcoming season with the graduation of Brittney Brown. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Max Jackson

Max Jackson

Redshirt sophomore Gabrielle Dixon will step into a bigger role near the net for her team this upcoming season with the graduation of Brittney Brown. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Ryan Lynch, Editor in Chief

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How they finished:

18-11, lost to North Texas in opening game of Conference USA Tournament

Another year of improvement:

After a 3-26 record caused the firing of 17-year head coach Jody Brown in 2012, Florida Atlantic volleyball needed to change its direction after it had suffered its worst season ever.

The first step of moving forward came with replacing Brown with Fernanda Nelson, a former member of the Brazil national volleyball team and a Florida Gulf Coast University assistant coach.

Starting with Nelson’s first season at the helm in 2012, the Owls have gone from a 7-19 record to an 18-11 mark in four years. In that time, FAU has also made three straight Conference USA tournament appearances, but has yet to advance past the first round.

Shutout streak:

From Oct. 2-21, the Owls became one of the hottest teams in the conference by chaining together six straight wins — the first five of which the team did not lose a single set.

That streak was not the first time that season they were able to capitalize on their momentum, as they had four straight shutout wins to begin the year while winning the FAU Invitational Tournament. Out of their 18 victories for the season, 14 came without the opponent winning a single set in the match.

Replacing seniors:

Despite having a few key players graduating from the team, the Owls should not see a drop in play.

Important losses going forward include second team all-conference pick and middle blocker Brittney Brown, as well as outside hitter Kristina Rankovic. Brown (273) and Rankovic (267) were second and third respectively on the team for kills, which is a measure of how often a player scored by hitting the ball on the other side of the court.

Brown also was second on the team to redshirt junior Gabrielle Dixon in blocks, while Rankovic led the team with 336 digs.

Last season’s kill leader and senior Maja Ristic leads the group of returning players, which includes senior librero Nathalie Rosado, sophomore Abbi Reid and redshirt junior Kristi Tekavec, who was unable to play last year because of an injury.

Notably, the seven freshmen on the current roster outnumber the total number of juniors and seniors combined on the team, making for a young team.

With that lack of experience, it’s hard to gauge what direction the team will go. Returning players like Ristic and Martin will need to continue performing well so that the young players can find their bearings in the college game.

The volleyball team starts the season by playing in the fourth annual FAU Invitational on August 26 and 27. To view its schedule, click here.

Ryan Lynch is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @RyanLynchwriter.