Trojan Spotlight: 2012 Volleyball season preview
When Van Compton first arrived on campus nearly three decades ago, she was hired as the women’s basketball coach. Two years later, the women’s basketball program was dropped due to a lack of funds. The athletic director at the time then asked Compton if she would stay and coach the volleyball team.
25 years later, Compton sits in her office preparing for yet another season as head coach of the UALR volleyball team.
“I really didn’t think that it would last this long at the time,” Compton said. “Possibly a couple, maybe two or three years, or I would go some place else and coach basketball. Never 25 years.”
For Compton, however, this season is already different from the rest.
As the 2012 season approaches, Compton might be facing the biggest challenge of her illustrious career. Compton is dealing with several unfortunate circumstances before her team has even stepped out on the court.
Two players have gone down with ACL injuries and a senior captain, Paige Gantar, has left the team.
“We practice with 10 people everyday instead of 12,” Compton said. “It’s a tough spot, but I’m going to coach this team just like I coached the four championship teams I’ve had.”
Because of the early onset of injuries, Compton has been forced to make adjustments that have several key players playing out of position.
“We’re using a setter as an outside hitter and a defensive specialist as a middle,” Compton said. “That’s like asking a basketball coach to use a point guard as a post.”
Despite the early setbacks, Compton is still excited about the upcoming season and is motivated to compete day in and day out.
“If you’re not competitive, you don’t need to coach,” Compton said. “You need to be in the classroom teaching.”
Compton also notes the work ethic and character as positives for this year’s team.
“They are lovely people, they work their butts off,” Compton added. “They stayed here all summer long and worked out with Coach Barron.”
The Trojans are coming off a relatively disappointing season where they posted an overall record of 11-20 and were eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament.
Last year was the team’s first visit to the Sun Belt Tournament since 2009, but have not advanced past the first round since 2005.
Compton returns 9 of 11 lettermen from a year ago, including the 2011 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, Edina Begic.
Begic, a 6’2’’ outside hitter from Sarajevo, Bosnia, started in all 110 sets last year and led the Trojans with 432 kills, earning her a spot on the All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team.
“She’s a great player, so coachable and she’s gotten better,” Compton said. “She has good genes and has been raised right.”
Begic finished her freshman year ranked ninth in kills, fifth in hitting attempts, and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Memphis and New Mexico State Invitationals.
The Trojans also feature four seniors, headlined by Emily Pepperman. The 5’6’’ defensive specialist is the UALR career leader in digs with 1,236.
Pepperman, along with the other seniors, are the only upperclassmen on this year’s team and will seek to provide guidance and leadership for the younger players.
UALR will begin its season with their first 14 games away from the friendly confines of the Jack Stephens Center, starting with the Memphis Invitational on Aug. 24th. The Trojans will partake in three other weekend invitationals, before the start of conference play.
The Trojans struggled on the road last year, compiling a 2-12 record and will have their resiliency tested early with the first five weekends of the season away from home.
The conference schedule has a favorable stretch of four straight home games for the Trojans, the first of which coming against Louisiana Monroe on Sept. 28.