Sierra Sports Insider: Volleyball opens Big 8 season with BIG potential…

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The memory of the last two sets of the 2012 season will forever occupy a dark corner of Sierra volleyball coach Vera Nelson's mind. Just points away from a visit to the final four, her Wolverines gave away the final two sets of the regional final in Fresno. Facing match points in each of the final two sets, the Rams pulled out an improbable victory.

But, inspiration and motivation can come from a loss just as easily as from a win, and that painful November night pumps up Nelson and her four returning sophomores as they enter tonight's Big 8 opener against CRC. Nelson has run the 2013 team through a brutal preseason that saw them face state-ranked teams seven times and come away with an 11-3 mark. The Big 8 is a meat grinder of a conference and these Wolverines have their blades sharpened.

The four returners are the heart of the 13-player roster. Setter Madi Macauley and libero Haley Biles had All-State-caliber Septembers. Middle blocker Brittany Campbell has feasted on Macauley sets and Erin Ellner may be the most improved Wolverine. But, make no mistake, this is a "team" in every sense of the word.

Nelson has brought in some big, strong athletes to provide front-line depth. Coveted freshman Jen Simon is this year's "Death from Above" and, with experience, she may be one of the best to ever wear the Cardinal and White. Amanda Bieber, Alexis Hall and Morghan Pomeroy are excellent defenders and steady offensive threats. You're going to get your share of kill opportunities any time Madi Macauley is your setter!

Biles is the established leader of the defense, but newcomer Kaitlin Kamoe has been exceptional with her digs and anticipation. Throw in Mackenzie Harrison, Letysha Cephus, Janae Mimms and Lauren Vizzusi, and Nelson has great defensive depth.

The journey to the final four starts tonight. We’ll see you at The GoGo!

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