UMSL junior Chelsea Burkle, a third team All-GLVC selection from a year ago, is one of seven player's returning from last year's volleyball team. The UMSL Tritons will open the 2012 season on Aug. 31. (Photo by Danny Reise)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis volleyball team will welcome five newcomers to a squad that returns seven players from last year’s team. The UMSL Tritons are coming off a 19-9 record in 2011, including a 13-5 Great Lakes Valley Conference mark, and are looking for another strong season.

“It’s been a good mix and the practice atmosphere has been great,” said second-year head coach Ryan Young. “The newcomers have come in eager to learn and are willing to listen, while the returners have all provided great leadership. The talent level of the newcomers has also been impressive and they are really pushing the returns, so it makes each practice a good competition. One of my big expectations is that we work hard and get better every day, and so far we are doing that.”

Position-by-position preview


Who’s back …

There are five outside hitters on this year’s roster including junior Chelsea Burkle, a third team all-GLVC selection from a year ago, who hits on the left side. Burkle was third on the team with 271 kills, an average of 2.61 per set. She also added 1.69 digs per set and finished with 53 blocks and 25 service aces.

“Chelsea had a good year last year and has improved since then as she has gotten even more comfortable with the position,” Young said.

Also returning are seniors Liz Jaeger and Haley Woods. Jaeger saw action in 18 matches a year ago, averaging 1.42 kills per set, while Woods appeared in 19 contests.

“Liz and Haley are both working hard and will be in the mix,” Young said. “Nothing is set in stone with our lineup and all of our hitters give us a bunch of different options and I expect Liz and Haley will both see time on both the left and right sides.”

The Tritons were also expecting the return of senior Kelsie Rankin, a three-year starter who redshirted last season after a knee injury, but a re-injury has once again forced Rankin to the sidelines until at least mid-October.

“If Kelsie can come back for us, that would be a huge asset for our team, especially that point of the season,” Young said. “She has such a positive attitude and is a hard worker, and both of those things are contagious and in turn will only benefit our team.”

Who’s new …

The lone newcomer is opposite side attacker Haley Brightwell. The sophomore is a transfer from NCAA Division I Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa). A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Brightwell prepped at Kennedy High School, where she earned first team all-state honors.

“Haley can both sides of the court and will add a lot to our offense,” Young said. “Along with our other three hitters, who plays where will be determined on who has the hot hand on what night.”


Who’s back …

Senior Corinne Hoekstra is one of three returning starters. She led the team in blocks last season, registering 101, which ranked fourth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference and added 1.94 kills per set.

Who’s new …

The other two middle blockers are both true freshman and will both be expected to contribute right away. Jessica Ploss was a three-year letterwinner at Antioch (Ill.) High School, where she was a two-time all-conference, all-county and all-area selection. As a senior, she recorded 201 kills, 76 digs, 70 blocks and 21 service aces.

Hannah Miller , who can also move to the outside when needed, earned third team all-state honors as a senior at Marion (Iowa) High School after averaging 3.5 kills per set and owning a kill efficiency of .400.

“I have been very impressed with our three middle blockers so far,” Young said. “Corinne has looked really good during preseason and has really taken Jessica and Hannah under her wing. All three are great blockers, and that should be one of our strengths this season.”


Who’s back …

UMSL returns two-year veteran Anna McNulty, the lone setter from last season. She enters the season ranked eighth all-time in career assists (1,802) after ranking fourth in the GLVC a year ago with 10.77 assists per set. She also recorded 26 service aces and added 1.68 digs per set.

Who’s new …

After running a 5-1 offense last season, the addition of freshman Lindsay Meyer, will give the Tritons the option to also run a 6-2. A four-time all-conference honoree at Washington (Mo.) High School, Meyer dished out 644 assists as a senior, while adding 267 digs.

“Having two setters this year has been great after just having Anna last year,” Young said. “Not only does it create more competition in practice, but it gives us different options with our offense. Running a 6-2 would make us more dynamic and give us three front row hitters.

“Both Anna and Lindsay understand the game and both play great defensive. They have been pushing each other in practice and that will only make them better.”


Who’s back …

Senior Jennie Manis returns as the anchor in the backrow and is expected to be the starting libero. Manis played in 27 contests a year ago, averaging 2.03 digs per set, while splitting time as the libero and defensive specialist.

“I am very confident in how Jennie has played thus far and expect her to run the backrow like a libero should,” Young said. “She is a loud, vocal player and her leadership role has been huge for us.”

Who’s new …

Freshman Shelby Bishop rounds out the newcomers. Bishop was a three-time all-city honoree at Wichita East (Kan.) High School.

“Shelby has been working hard and is coming around and will only get better as the season progresses,” Young said.


The 2012 schedule features three tournaments as well as 18 contests in GLVC play. Additionally, the Tritons are set to face four teams who appear on the American College Volleyball Association Division II Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll, including seventh ranked University of Minnesota–Duluth, who UMSL will meet in the third game of the season at the Truman State Days Inn Bulldog Invitational in Kirksville, Mo. Three other foes on the schedule – Truman State University (Kirksville, Mo.), Emporia State University (Lyon County, Kan.) and Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla) – are all receiving votes in the poll.

“Our schedule is tough this year and we will definitely be challenged in our first couple of tournaments with some key regional matches and some good tests against ranked teams,” Young said. “I also expect the GLVC to be another battle. We host some good teams and also have to play a few good teams on the road. It will be a long grind, but if we keep our energy up and continue to work hard, then we should be able to reach our goals.”

UMSL will open the season Friday (Aug. 31) against Ashland (Ohio) University in the Days Inn Bulldog Invitational.

Click here or below to view an interview with Ryan Young, head coach of the volleyball team.

Mary Ann Mitchell

Mary Ann Mitchell