Lamar volleyball ready for major improvement

Lamar volleyball ready for major improvement

Two front line athletes have signed on with the Lamar University volleyball program, joining three other athletes from the early signing period for the 2017 season.

Bre’Ala Box and Liz Eardly, both versatile athletes who play near the net, along with Iyara Walker, Kaitlyn Nutt and Alexis Wiley, signed with the Cardinals in November. The Cards also welcome one of the area’s – if not the state’s – top players in Kennidee Willis of Deweyville.

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about getting athletes who are versatile and can do more than one thing to help us out,” said head coach Alan Edward. “Both of these girls fit that mold. They’ll be able to play in the middle or move them to a pin.

“Michelle (Kuester) has put together a phenomenal recruiting class,” said Edwards. “For her, it’s not about getting athletes, but getting the right athletes. She added good fits for our program and good fits for our system.”

Box, a native of Arlington (Nimitz High School), heads in as a three-year letterwinner and is a three-time district honoree. She was named as the district’s hitter of the year for her senior season, hitting .389 with 311 kills, and for her junior season she was the district’s blocker of the year with 57 total blocks (33 solo, 24 assists).

“Bre’Ala is very athletic and will have tremendous upside when we get her on campus. College reps are so much different than high school or club reps, so just athletically she’s going to get better because she’ll get much stronger,” said Edwards. “She can play high and will fit our system very well.”

She finished her career with a staggering 713 total kills in three seasons to go with 223 digs and 152 total blocks. Box was electric in her senior year and tallied a line of 37 aces, 159 digs and 71 total blocks. It was the second of back-to-back seasons that the incoming freshman put up .300 hitting seasons, had a .309 mark for her junior season.

“She really wants to be good at this and is incredibly dedicated to her approach and business,” said Edwards.

She was also a standout in the classroom as well, taking Academic All-State honors and winning the Magna Cum Laude Award every year at Nimitz.

Box will major in Kinesiology upon her arrival at Lamar.

Eardly, native of Temecula, California (Great Oak High School), is projected to contribute in both the middle and on the right side. She was a two-year letterwinner and helped Great Oak to a combined 42-14 record, and was the Southwestern League champion in her junior season. That year, her squad was the first team from the Southwestern League to make the state playoffs.

“Liz is a California kid from a club that I’ve gone to a lot over the years. It’s a club that trains like we do,” said Edwards. “The club system in California is different than this area, and it is highly competitive. She is a versatile athlete with a really good arm.”

She was the league’s leader in both kills and blocks during her senior season, popping 367 kills and 131 total blocks. Eardly tallied 404 kills and 157 blocks for her two-year career.

“Liz is a good athlete, but she’ll come in a more polished volleyball player,” said Edwards. “Possibly the most polished I’ve recruited since I’ve been here.”

Lamar volleyball also announced their 2017 schedule.

Before they open their 12-match home schedule at McDonald Gym on Sept. 1, the Cardinals will head to South Carolina to take on Jacksonville, Bethune Cookman and Clemson in the Big Orange Bash, hosted by Clemson from Aug. 25-26.

Lamar returns home Sept. 1 to host a twin bill with Southern University at 10 a.m. and Louisiana Tech later at 7 p.m. The other team involved in the Cardinal Classic will be Texas Southern, which LU will oppose at 1 p.m. on the Sept. 2.

 “We spent a long time on the road to start last season, and we’re pretty good at McDonald Gym. We’re going to be home one weekend out of the first four, and we love playing in McDonald Gym,” said Edwards. “We love playing in front of this crowd and these people. Certainly it’s a week that easier on the body and easier from a student-athlete perspective with classes.”

Sept. 8-9, the Cardinals will head off to the Texas Tech Red Raider Classic to compete against the Red Raiders, UT Rio Grande Valley and California-Riverside. They will wrap up their tournament season at the UTA Invitational, hosted by Texas-Arlington from Sept. 15-16.

Before Lamar opens its Southland Conference schedule with Northwestern State on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., it will host Prairie View A&M two days prior for its final non-conference match of the season.

Home league contests for the 2017 season include Central Arkansas (Sept. 23), Stephen F. Austin (Oct. 7), Southeastern Louisiana (Oct. 10), New Orleans (Oct. 17), Nicholls (Oct. 19), McNeese (Oct. 21) and Incarnate Word (Oct. 31).

“It’ll be nice to see some different teams twice this season, some fresh faces. We feel like we’re starting fresh and starting to rebuild a little bit,” said Edwards. “We’ll see some real change in game plans the second time we see those opponents, and that will be big for our players. No excuses, but it has been tough to make adjustments to a team that has gone undefeated in the league twice. We’re looking forward to seeing some new teams twice.”

Lamar will hit the road to take on Houston Baptist on Sept. 28, reigning two-time champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Oct. 12), Sam Houston State (Nov. 2) and Abilene Christian (Nov. 4).

In league play, LU’s longest homestand is three games – featuring UNO, Nicholls and McNeese – from Oct. 17-21. Its longest road swing of the league season is three, and it wraps up the season from Nov. 2-11. That swing features SHSU, ACU and SFA.