CBU has a rather even mix of newcomers and returners, with six players coming back from last year's squad and eight new faces on the court this season. The Lancers will also be under the direction of first-year head coach Branden Higa, with last year's NCCAA Assistant Coach of the Year Blair Penner also returning to the staff.
Higa comes to CBU after spending three years as an assistant at Mississippi State and looks to lead a Lancer squad that won an NCCAA National Title last year and finished third in the PacWest.
CBU was 26-10 overall, 11-5 PacWest last season, finishing behind BYU-Hawaii (15-1) and Grand Canyon (12-4) in the conference standings. The Lancers went on to win all six matches at the NCCAA National Tournament to capture the 2011 title. This season CBU has been tabbed third again in the PacWest Preseason Predicted Order of Finish and is ranked No. 2 in the NCCAA preseason rankings.
The list of returners on the 2012 CBU roster has to start with senior leader Ingrid Carmona. Carmona was selected PacWest Preseason Player of the Year in the recent coaches poll as she enters her fourth campaign for the Lancers. The outside hitter from Santo Domingo, D.R. boasts the fourth most kills in program history with 1,488, leading CBU and the PacWest with a career-high 579 last year.
"I think we're in a really good spot as far as returners go, especially bringing back the Preseason Player of the Year Ingrid," said Higa. "She's a special talent who just continually does things on the court to amaze you. She has also become a fantastic leader on and off the court.
"I think our experience at the setter position is going to be key as well. We have two setters coming back (Taylor Parker and Jordyn Siko) that are competing for the position and both bring some really great skills to the table. Even now I don't know who is going to start, so that's going to be interesting to watch early on."
Siko last season appeared in 100 sets, serving up 655 assists while also recording166 digs, 66 total blocks and 15 aces. The sophomore from Chino Hills, Calif. also saw time on the outside, ripping 111 kills last season.
Parker, a junior from San Diego, Calif., led the Lancers with 718 assists (7.89 per set), playing in 91 sets in 2011. She also recorded 23 aces, 124 digs and 29 blocks.
Also among the returners are Kattie Givens (37 blocks last season), who Higa says is poised to see a good amount of time at middle blocker for the Lancers, Megan Glennie, who played in all 126 sets last year and notched 358 digs, and Haley Musulman who saw time in 18 matches and recorded 18 digs.
Though not all new to CBU, that Lancers will have eight new players on the court this season.
"We've got a couple players in Kim McCalmont and Joyceann Duncan who have been around the program last year, but this will be their first year playing and then others who have both transferred in with great experience and also young talent from the high school ranks," said Higa. "It really is a fantastic mix of players who are already blending well."
Higa is especially familiar with one of the transfers, opposite hitter Faith Steinwedell, as she played at Mississippi State the last three years and will now be finishing up her last year of eligibility at CBU. Steinwedell racked up 493 kills, 559 digs and 162 blocks while playing for Higa at Mississippi State.
On the young talent side, Malika O'Brien comes in as one of the Lancers top recruits and according to Higa is poised to make a big splash at middle blocker this season.
"Malika is physical and tall, and has gotten so much better from the time she stepped on campus," said Higa. "Middles at times can be seen as one dimensional, but she can do it all on the court. She's a really well-rounded player who is going to play a huge roll for us."
Another player poised to make an impact for CBU will be transfer Kaitlyn Edwards, who comes from El Camino College. Edwards, along with McCalmont, will look to contribute time as hitters for the Lancer squad. McCalmont redshirted last season at CBU after transferring from Colorado Christian.
CBU also adds three more freshman to the mix, bringing in outside hitter Kristin McCord from Saugus High (Saugus, Calif.), libero Nicole Bell from La Cueva High (Albuquerque, N.M.) and outside/opposite hitter Jessie Trail from Centennial High (Bakersfield, Calif.). Duncan joins the team as a senior after serving as manager the last three years. She is listed as a libero.
"The overall level of team commitment has been great so far leading up to this season," said Higa. "Everyone has played a really important part of developing and growing as a group and it's going to go a long way towards what we want to do and that's to be the best in the PacWest and the NCCAA. I feel we're ready to go and ready to compete right now."