LAKELAND, FL - After a record-setting campaign in 2017, Florida Southern College volleyball embarks upon a new era in 2018 under first-year head coach Chris Keen. No stranger to the Moccasins, Keen has been vital to the team's success over the past five seasons, helping lead Florida Southern to an NCAA Division II national runner-up finish a year ago as the team's associate head coach. He was rewarded with the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II National Assistant Coach of the Year award and was handed the reigns of the program when longtime head coach Jill Stephens announced her retirement in January.
Keen isn't the only one who earned national recognition last year as AVCA all-Americans Nicole Mattson (first team) and Bethany Besancenez (third team) return for their final seasons in the red and white. Southern will also rely heavily on the experience of seniors Whitney Drost, Gabby Fresh, and Makena Wilson as it looks to defend its Sunshine State Conference and NCAA South Region title in 2018. Also returning for the Mocs are sophomores Rachael Martin, who had a monster freshman season, and Annie Collins who gained valuable experience as one of Florida Southern's top service threats as a redshirt-freshman.
The Moccasins should also receive a boost from junior college transfers Buse Ene and Anica Popadic, and fans can also expect to see a heavy dose of freshman Tierra Porter in the team's rotation this year after she had a fantastic preseason. Although Florida Southern lost key contributors in Allie Geary, Nicci Joyce, Sydney Marshall, and Anna Tovo, this year's roster is heavy on upperclassmen with five seniors and four juniors. In addition to Ene, Popadic, and Porter, Keen and his staff brought in three more freshmen in Bethany Jones, Emma Shaddix, and Hailey Williams. Courtney Charneco, Allie Hart, and Jasmine Sanders are all back to help provide depth and experience across the board.
Keen will once again be joined on the sideline by assistant coach Hyrum Keime, who is entering his sixth year with the program. Ashlee Crowder, a three-time all-American at Hillsdale, joined the coaching staff in February as an assistant coach. She spent two years at the University of Indianapolis before coming to Lakeland.
Florida Southern kicks off the 2018 campaign with four matches at Central Missouri's Peggy Martin Challenge (Aug. 24-25). The Mocs open the year against Truman State (12 p.m.) on Friday before taking on Drury (4 p.m.). The opening weekend of action wraps up on Saturday against No. 22 Central Missouri (2 p.m.) and Missouri Southern State (6 p.m.). The Mocs host their own tournament next weekend when they will face Ferris State in their home opener at 3 p.m. on Aug. 31 at Jenkins Field House.
For a complete 2018 volleyball schedule, please click HERE.