Volleyball team has big hopes for big players this season

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The Billikens are going to be big this year-literally and figuratively.

A conference crown is within the grasp of the Saint Louis University volleyball team with the return of five starting seniors and the addition of three new players, including a 6′ 1″ outside hitter and a 6′ 3″ middle hitter.

Co-captains Colleen Hunter and Brooke Minniear are expected to lead the team offensively again this year and have made visible improvements in their games because of their strength and conditioning training.

Hunter recently completed in the Adult National Open Tournament in Dallas and is now participating in strength-training workouts with strength trainer Mike Linn. Coach Marilyn Nolen cites Linn’s workouts as providing consistency to the players’ summer regime and is beneficial to each player in terms of skill development.

“(The team members) are all very zealous about (Linn),” Nolen said. “The benefits of his training are already apparent; the other captain, Brooke Minniear, is now jump serving.”

With new skills and improvements already under way, the team is well positioned to be a serious contender for the Conference USA title, which, according to Hunter, is one of the team’s most fervent expectations.

“Not only do people think we should (win) because we’re older, I think we can because we’re more experienced,” Hunter said.

In addition to the 11 returning players, the three new players each bring a high level of playing experience and are expected to be immediate contributors.

Lauren Boissevain, a 5′ 10″ southern California native, was a leader on her high school team at San Clemente and has played at the club level since she was 12 years old.

At San Clemente, Boissevain received first-team All-Conference and All-CIF honors and helped her team remain undefeated and win the league championship.

Boissevain played as a setter at San Clemente and as an outside hitter for the Orange County Volleyball Club, but may take on a more defensive role with the Billikens.

“Lauren is an outstanding player with tremendous overall skills,” Nolen said in a release. “She played with a traditional power in club volleyball and could have an impact on the lineup almost anywhere.”

The front row of the Bills will be impacted by 6′ 1″ outside hitter Ashley Hunter from Moreno Valley, Calif. Hunter is currently starting as an outside hitter with her club team in California and is expected to spark the Billiken offense.

“(Hunter) has good power, we think she’s going to add a competitive edge to our team,” Nolen said. In a release, Nolen said, “She hits the ball well, sees the block well and plays with uncanny poise.”

At Canyon Springs High School, Hunter averaged 17 kills per match and was voted Most Valuable Player her junior and senior years.

Hunter ranked in the top 15 of her graduating class and boasted the highest GPA on the volleyball team. At SLU, Hunter was selected as a Presidential Scholar.

Bronwen Nelson, from Aurora, Colo., will add great height to the front row and strength in the middle. Nelson is 6′ 3″ and can reach 10′ 2″, which will help the Bills in terms of blocking as well as attacking.

“(Nelson) plays the right side of middle, but she can play wherever she wants,” Nolen said.

Nelson was a standout at Overland High School and led the Trailblazers to a 24-6 record and a fifth-place finish in the 5A State Tournament in Colorado during her senior season.

She led the team in blocking, averaging 1.95 blocks per game and finished the season with 81 kills under her belt.

Nolen anticipates all of the new players to be vying for starting roles within a very short time and is confident about the team’s future.