Volleyball Preview: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
2016 Finish: 9-17 (9-9 SWAC), Lost in SWAC Volleyball Tournament Quarterfinals
Key Returners: OH Kendalle Howard, S Britney Sahlmann, OH/RS Lauren Corby, MB Taylor Burrall
Key Losses: DS Courtney Brand
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In terms of the percentage of total offensive production accounted for in 2016, few teams return more to the 2017 season than the Lady Lions of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Coach Dustin Sahlmann played several freshmen in 2016 and with some promising returns on investments, he has a lot to work with from last year’s quarterfinalist starting with explosive outside hitter Kendalle Howard. Howard posted 198 kills, 116 digs, 28 blocks and 26 aces in her freshman campaign, which closed with an all-tournament nod and should be a top attack option for the Lady Lions this year.
Supplementing things at the net is Lauren Corby and Taylor Burrall. Corby was an all-around contributor for UAPB in 2016, putting up 222 digs, 165 kills and 65 blocks. Burrall led the team with 77 blocks and added 142 kills.
With these two in tow along with Howard, the UAPB lineup has potential to be one of the more underrated units in the offensive realm this year and perhaps beyond, given the relative youth of the team at certain spots.
With setter shored up for the foreseeable future thanks to sophomore Britney Sahlmann (571 A, 163 D, 64 K) and senior Katy Hufnagel in the fold as well, the only glaring issue to address is at libero, where Courtney Brand and her 280 digs have graduated. Jade Sanlin looks like the answer for now, as the senior posted 189 digs as the No. 2 defensive specialist.
The Lady Lions open the 2017 campaign in Tampa, Fla. on Aug. 25, when Arkansas at Pine Bluff heads to the University of South Florida for the USF Classic.