In the Zone: Youth will be served

This year’s freshman class is the biggest yet, and they’re not even done enrolling.

For all you upperclassmen who scornfully reply, “So what?” consider this: 18 of the 42 combined players currently on the women’s volleyball and soccer rosters are freshmen. That’s 42 percent for you stat geeks out there. With 15 true freshmen.

That’s a lot of youth holding up two of the school’s bigger athletic programs. And while strength and conditioning is the first wake-up call in the high school-to-college transition, there’s no telling whether this year’s Crop of Frosh will bloom or buckle under the pressure.

It doesn’t matter if they’re eager or afraid. They’re going to play, and they’re going to determine, for better or worse, how their respective teams perform. Volleyball lost their top three scorers to graduation, possibly a fourth if Jaicee Kuresa can’t play this year. Soccer lost nine seniors from last year’s GWC regular season champion squad. Nearly all of them were starters or key rotation players.

That makes for rebuilding projects both on and next to the I-15. Either way, it will be messy. There will be bumps in the road, some of them more jarring then others.

Freshmen-heavy teams imply exceptional recruiting talent. Will heralded newcomers clash with veterans? It’s a legit concern, particularly on women’s teams coached by men. Discontent and back-biting happen. It probably won’t be a problem given Sam Atoa and Brent Anderson’s track records when it comes to team chemistry, but the potential is there.

More likely, issues will arise on the court/field. With freshmen, enthusiasm goes hand-in-hand with inexperience. It’s a double-edged sword the coaching staff will try to hone the right way before it cuts too deeply into the losses column. How many times will execution falter because of unfamiliarity with the system? How many close games will be lost due to inexperience?

The problem is these teams don’t have a lot of time. Volleyball opens the season hosting invitationals that feature University of Michigan, yes, the other Wolverines, Northern Arizona and BYU-Hawaii. Syracuse and Kansas State are also on the slate.

It’s not any easier for women’s soccer. Baylor, Miami, Utah and Princeton all form just part of a brutal early-season.

 

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