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UMHB Volleyball announces early part of 2021 schedule, incoming recruiting class

Above photo provided by the UMHB Athletics Department

BELTON, Texas- On Tuesday, one week after the inaugural recruiting class for the beach volleyball team was released, the UMHB volleyball team announced its incoming recruiting class, as well as the first few matches of its 2021 fall slate.

The Cru will open the season in Jackson, Mississippi against ASC opponent Belhaven on September 1, followed by the Millsaps College tournament September 2-3, which is also in Jackson. UMHB will return to Belton the following week, facing ETBU in the home opener on September 10. Head coach Mark Pryor’s team will also battle Texas Lutheran and Schreiner in non-conference play.

In the final Div. III Top 25 poll conducted by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on April 28, 2021, UMHB was ranked No. 4.

As for the recruiting class, Pryor said that he and his staff addressed “both short and long term needs for the program” with the seven-player group. The constant amongst the incoming freshmen is their versatility.

“The recurring theme we were looking for with this class was versatility,” Pryor said in a press release. “If you’re a front row player, you have to be able to hit from multiple positions well. If you’re a back row player, you need to be able to pass, defend and even serve well. If you set, you need to bring something else to the table, like great defense, blocking or attacking ability.”

The Cru won the ASC tournament in Belton on April 10 with a 3-0 sweep of UT-Dallas in the championship match. Only two seniors, Corinne Novak and Adrien Valdez, graduated, with ASC Tournament MVP Hannah Frasca and middle hitter Kayla Janikula returning, as well as several other key contributors.

The incoming freshmen will only add to the talent on UMHB’s roster, according to Pryor, who said that “this will be a fun group.”

“Our gym was pretty competitive last season,” Pryor said in the press release. “I have no problem saying that this roster will be exceptionally competitive from the fifth-year senior to the incoming freshmen.”

Recruiting Class breakdown:

Taryn Belinowski

Height: 6’0

Position: Hitter

High School/Hometown: New Waverly High School/New Waverly, Texas

Pryor on Belinowski: “Taryn is going to be a middle for us. She has played multiple spots across the front row, but we believe her long-term home is in the middle…she has a lot of the same attributes as Kayla Janikula and I think, with work, she could really become a presence at the net both defensively and offensively that will cause a lot of teams in our league consistent problems.”

Sydney Bowen

Height: 5’6

Position: Libero/Defensive Specialist

High School/Hometown: Homeschool/San Antonio, Texas

Pryor on Bowen: “Sydney is our ‘I can do it all’ kid. She can play libero or defensive specialist. She can set. Under the right circumstances, she can hit. Under Sydney’s position on the roster, I think we will just need to put ‘baller’.

Ella Brunson

Height: 5’11

Position: Setter

High School/Hometown: New Braunfels High School/New Braunfels, Texas

Pryor on Brunson: “Ella is a fierce competitor. As a setter with really good length, she will really cause some problems for opposing teams. Most ASC teams are playing with back row setters, so if Ella is setting in the front row, opposing blockers are going to have to stay with her, because she will really be able to attack a second ball and score quickly.

Alyssa Christiansen

Height: 5’6

Position: Libero/Defensive Specialist

High School/Hometown: Clear Springs High School/League City, Texas

Pryor on Christiansen: “Alyssa is another defensive player we brought in who can flat out play. She has really solid platform skills with a combination of great feet. She will compete for time quicklyHer court awareness and volleyball IQ are off the charts.”

McKenna Cowsert

Height: 6’0

Position: Hitter

High School/Hometown: Johnson City High School/Johnson City, Texas

Pryor on Cowsert: “McKenna is one of our three hitters in this class who can play all three front row positions, but we see her developing into a six-rotation player at some point in her career. She is just a great athlete with really good leaping ability…”

Karsyn Curry

Height: 5’9

Position: Libero/Defensive Specialist

High School/Hometown: Midlothian High School/Midlothian, Texas

Pryor on Curry: “Karsyn is a great back row player that can play any of the three back row spots. She has the mentality of ‘Oh, I have to run 20 feet to get the ball up in less than 1.3 seconds and jump over a player, a chair and a water cooler? Meh. Come on Mark, gimme something difficult to do.’

Emma Sledge

Height: 6’0

Position: Hitter

High School/Hometown: Callisburg High School/Lake Kiowa, Texas

Pryor on Sledge: “Emma can play left, middle or right and hit the ball, hard. I mean with a last name like Sledge, how could she not? Emma is just a kid who when we saw what she was able to do, we really liked her. When we got a chance to notice what kind of person and teammate she was and can be, we knew we had to add her to the program.

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