PARKVILLE, Mo. | The Park University women's volleyball team and head coach Mike Talamantes knew that constructing the 2012 roster would be a reloading process when he took the job at the helm of the program in 2011. And after leading the Pirates to their first 20-win season since 2006, Talamantes has added 12 new faces for the 2012 season, attempting to replace eight non-returning letterwinners from 2011's 22-10 team.
"Early on, we knew we were going to need a lot of new blood for 2012," Talamantes said. "I think that we've added some great new pieces to the two returners we have from 2011, and we're going to lean on those two to be our leaders early in 2012 to keep the momentum from a 22-win season."
Park announced its first new women's volleyball student-athlete on national signing day in February (http://www.parkathletics.com/wvolleyball/park_006132.shtml) when Pamela Lima, a transfer from Coffeyville Community College, signed to play for the Pirates in 2012.
Lima is joined on the 2012 roster by another Coffeyville Raven, Melissa Honn, defensive addition who totaled 745 digs as a sophomore in 2011 at Coffeyville. That total ranked 16th in the NJCAA, and she also broke the Red Ravens' single-match record for digs (46).
"In this class, we tried to improve our ball control and overall athleticism," Talamantes said. "Melissa is one of the keys to that effort, giving us a quick defender in the back row with great instincts. She adds a lot of emotion to the squad, and we will need that after losing so many players who were vocal on and off the court."
Another two-year transfer familiar with the program will also be available in 2012, as Kat Partridge formally begins her Park volleyball tenure after initially signing with the Pirates in 2011 and sitting out the 2011 season. At 5-foot-9, Partridge was a first-team all-region setter as a sophomore, a year after landing on the second team as a freshman, at MCC-Longview in Kansas City. She was the NJCAA's leader in assists (1133), averaging 10.89 per set.
"Kat gives us an experienced presence at the setter position after only having one setter available last fall," Talamantes said. "It is crucial to have depth at the setting position."
The Pirates also added a pair of freshmen that will help at the setting position, including Alex Dalbey (Lansing, Kan.), who was an all-conference setter at Lansing High School and Ana Claudia de Almeida, a 5-foot-9 incoming freshman from Osasco, Brazil. Dalbey (5-foot-7) played two of her four high school seasons in New York before her family relocated to Lansing.
"Ana gives us a triple-threat from the setting position," Talamantes said. "She can defend, attack and run a very quick offense. She will be one of the athletic players at her position this year, and Alex is a great pick-up for us because she can not only help us setting, but also defensively on the back row. That's what I really like about where we're going in 2012. We have so many athletes that can play more than one position."
Talamantes' two-position approach is reflected in three more of the Pirates' 2012 signees, including Independence's Danielle Pocock, from St. Mary's High School, who led her high school team in kills in addition to earning letters in basketball and track. She was an all-area and all-conference high school player, and while her numbers were on the offensive side in high school, Talamantes also expects Pocock to contribute Park's back line. The same can be said for Sao Paulo, Brazil's Raissa Herczfeld, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter who will also compete for time at the libero position. Camilla Sales will also provide both offensive and defensive help, but her defensive contributions will be felt at the net, where she is a middle blocker and right-side hitter, entering 2012 as a freshman.
"Hands down, Raissa is the best ball-control player we have on the roster, but her ability to attack from the pin and her volleyball IQ makes her a threat at either position," Talamantes said. "With Camilla, we have someone who can stretch the defense by attacking from the right pin or from the middle off of one foot. She has great extension and will bolster a very deep offensive unit. I also love her intensity. She will raise the level in practice and on the match court."
Two more middles will help the Pirates at the net, including a Texan, Lauren Purdy, who will provide immediate on-the-court leadership, according to Talamantes.
"We lost six seniors, and it's hard to recover from that, but Lauren gives us the kind of leadership and experience we'd get from a returner," Talamantes said. "She is playoff-tested and she gives us the ability to stretch a defense with her attacking ability from behind the setter in and out of system."
Purdy is 5-foot-11 middle blocker from Arlington, Texas, who began her collegiate career at West Texas A&M, helping lead the Buffs to the NCAA Division II national championship match as a sophomore. She was an All-Lone Star Conference and all-region tournament performer and she competed in the 2008 All-Armed Forces games for the All-Navy team, earning all-tournament honors.
Christina Runyon (Wentzville, Mo./Wentzville HS) is one of two players new in 2012 at more than six-feet tall. A freshman middle, Runyon was an all-academic performer and earned spots on the region tournament's all-tournament team as both a junior and senior.
"Although the goal was quickness and control, we did need some height on the roster," Talamantes said. "Christina gives us a physical presence at the net that will improve our blocking at all three positions."
Jessica Ferguson, another freshman, is the Pirates' final defensive piece, joining the roster from William Chrisman High School. At 5-foot-3, Ferguson was a libero for WCHS, leading the team in both digs and digs per set, earning a spot on the second-team all-conference team as well as on the academic all-state team.
"Jess will help bolster our defense, giving us a great ball-control athlete with a high volleyball IQ," Talamantes said. "We might see her on the floor at times with our other liberos, giving us a very dangerous back row from time-to-time."
The final piece to the 2012 class is a student-athlete that is a familiar face in the American Midwest Conference. Wanessa Siqueira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) attended Oral Roberts University in 2011-12, but in 2010, she was the American Midwest Conference Freshman of the Year for Hannibal-LaGrange University. At HLG, Siqueira had 312 kills and a .264 hitting mark as a right-side attacker for HLG in 2010, and she was also effective at the service line with 68 aces.
"Wanessa's ball control and height will be the catalyst to what we're going to do on both offense and defense this season," Talamantes said. "She has great leadership skills as well as giving us a true high-ball option in and out of system."
The 2012 season begins in Iowa Aug. 24-25, with four matches in the Grand View University Invitational, and the Pirates open the home portion of the 2012 schedule Aug. 28 against MidAmerica Nazarene University at Breckon Sports Center. All 11 home matches and any home matches in the American Midwest Conference will be carried (video, audio, live statistics) on the Pirate Sports Network at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/park.portal#. For more information, visit www.parkathletics.com and click on women's volleyball, and for instant updates during matches, subscribe for Pirate Alerts on your mobile phone by visiting the Pirate Alerts Textcaster portal at https://my.textcaster.com/asa/Default.aspx?ID=946f7714-01fe-4ee3-ae26-76a362f0e4ef.