The University of Tulsa volleyball team began preparation for their 2012 season with their first practice of the season Wednesday.
The Golden Hurricane is the two-time defending Conference USA championship, and has advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament the past two seasons as well.
Tulsa returns five starters, the libero, and nine letterwinners overall from a team that went 28-7 a year ago.
"I've saw a lot of energy and excitement about getting the season started," commented Tulsa head coach Steven McRoberts. "We have a lot of experience coming back. We have five seniors that have 85 wins under their belt, a couple of conference championships, a couple wins at the NCAA Tournament the past few years with wins over LSU and Oklahoma. It is great leadership at the top and we have six freshmen that have come in and are pushing for playing time."
TU is led by senior Tyler Henderson, a second-team All-American the past two seasons and a two-time C-USA Player of the Year. Henderson averaged 4.86 kills per set and 5.11 points per set for Tulsa a year ago. Fellow senior Jessica Adams and Diana Silva also return for Tulsa after first-team all-conference selections a year ago.
Tulsa has six new players on the roster this season, including middle blocker Ashley Hooper, outside hitter Maura McGivern, middle blocker Nicole Newton and outside hitter Paige Panfil. Two of the six, middle blocker Alexis Mitchell and defensive specialist Kelsey Parks, will join the squad as walk-ons.
"I feel that our overall athleticism has gone up a notch," McRoberts stated. "I think people are going to see that we are going to be playing a little more above the net."
The Hurricanes will participate in four tournaments at the beginning of the season, starting with the Nike Invitational in Norman, Okla. The Hurricane will then head toe Lawrence, Kan. for the Kansas Volleyball Invitational. The last road tournament for Tulsa is the Northern Colorado Classic in Greely. Colo.
Tulsa will host the Golden Hurricane Classic the weekend before conference play begins.
All Tulsa volleyball games are free to the public.