NORTH ADAMS -- At last year's MCLA media day, the volleyball representatives were excited about the potential they and the team had. It didn't materialize in the win column.
Twelve months later, the Trailblazers are oozing with anticipation for the season to start. A lot of that has to do with how much healthier the team is entering the season.
"We have higher expectations," said junior Sam Barbarotta, a Taconic product.
"I know for me, I'm back from injury. But for the whole team, [a lack of] injuries in general probably."
MCLA didn't graduate a single player off the 2012 roster and brought in what coach Amanda Beckwith thinks is some really good talent. Headlining that group is freshman middle hitter Sam Anderson.
"She will anchor us in the middle," Beckwith said. "She's a very dominant blocker, and I can't wait just to see her blossom."
Classmate Rachel Mills should also see plenty of playing time. She's shown an ability to hit from anywhere, and Beckwith thinks she's "one of the most talented players we've had in this program."
For some of the Trailblazers, seeing an increase in the team's average height has them feeling good. They have five players standing at least 5-foot-9 -- Christian (6-0) and Anderson (5-11) are the tallest. Kendra Hobbs may be listed as 5-8, but Beckwith said last season she plays and jumps like a 6-footer.
"Can't teach height," the coach said.
Last year, the Trailblazers knew they were athletic, and needed to use that to their advantage -- tracking down hard-to-get-to balls and playing various positions. They still think their athleticism will work in their favor.
"Our abilities have increased. We're getting better; we have better hands, better blocks, better sets, kills," senior Julia Christian said. "Talent is increasing. We've grown a lot. We learned a lot from last year."
MCLA finished last season 10-19 overall and 1-5 in the MASCAC. They lost in straight sets to Westfield St. in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Beckwith said the team needs to "finish Game 5" to earn more wins. MCLA played four five-set matches last year and lost all of them. In three of those losses, the margin of defeat was two points.
"We always get stuck on that Game 5, and we always lose by two points," Christian said.
"Not this year," Beckwith added.
To make sure that doesn't happen, Beckwith has held triple sessions during the preseason, and on a recent trip to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a day of scrimmages, the Trailblazers were on the court for about four and half hours, the coach said. She equated that to a typical conference weekend.
"It's nice for us to have already been there and to have had all of our core in that match," she said.
The Trailblazers also think they have more depth this season. While they have one more rostered player than last season, it's not so much the number that's giving them confidence in the second and third units as it is recognizing the talents of the first-year players.
"I think it's nice because not only do we not have a weakest link, but we also don't have a strongest one," Barbarotta said. "We all balance each other out well. On any given day, you can be the best player on the court. So I think that's important too because it's not like someone's the star."
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