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Season Preview: TCU Women’s Volleyball

The Horned Frogs will play their home games at the Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena, ending a 24-year tradition of competing at the URC.

photo courtesy of (Ellman Photography)

The TCU women’s volleyball team has made the University Recreation Center its home for the last 24 years, feeding off the energy created by the compact facility and close proximity to fans. The Horned Frogs will have a new floor to protect this fall, however, as athletic director Jeremiah Donati revealed this past month that TCU will play its home games at the Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena, also home to the TCU men’s and women’s basketball programs.

A new venue is one of a few changes to the TCU women’s volleyball program that will take effect this fall. The Horned Frogs added two new assistant coaches in Kyle Luongo and Eysha Ambler, who will bring years of collegiate experience to the Horned Frogs. Luongo recently spent five seasons at Pepperdine, while Ambler was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator of the Auburn women’s volleyball program for nine years. Former TCU player Abigail Buckingham has also joined the staff as a graduate assistant.

Head coach Jill Kramer added a group new players to the TCU roster including Washington State transfer Mykayla Myers, Kate Georgiades, Grayson Schirpik, Taylor Raiola and Alyssa Heist, the younger sister of former Horned Frog standout Alexia Heist. The new players will be looking to help lift a TCU squad that finished 12-18 overall and 4-12 in the Big 12 Conference during the 2019 campaign.

Junior Katie Clark headlines TCU’s returning players. After earning All-Big 12 Second Team recognition in 2019, Clark received Preseason All-Big 12 honors this year. Clark showcased great versatility for the Horned Frogs this past season, starting 22 matches at two different positions including middle blocker, where she recorded 14 starts. Clark led TCU with 353.5 points, 289 kills and 99 blocks.

Sophomore Afedo Manyang earned 18 starts at middle blocker in 2019, totaling 104 kills and 63 blocks while leading the team in blocks per set (0.95) and aces per set (0.22). At the outside hitter position, sophomore Audrey Nalls recorded 25 starts, finishing her season with 263 kills, 63 blocks and 314.5 points, all second-most on the team. The one-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week also added 196 digs, fourth-most on the team in 2019.

Another impact player in TCU’s youth movement was sophomore Julia Adams, who played in 28 matches with seven starts on the right side. A member of the All-Big 12 Rookie Team, Adams earned both Rookie of the Week and Offensive Player of the Week honors from Nov. 3-10. Adams ended her sophomore campaign with 266.5 points and 243 kills.

Senior and two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree Sarah Swanson led TCU in hitting percentage (.244) this past season, starting 13 games at the middle blocker position. Sophomore Madilyn Cole and two-time Academic All-Big 12 Second Team redshirt senior Calli Novak are also slated to return to the Horned Frogs in 2020.

Sophomore McKenzie Nichols quarterbacked the TCU offense, piling up a team-leading 869 assists at the setter position. Another one-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week, Nichols started 25 matches for the Horned Frogs including the team’s final 18 matches. Sophomore Irem Ucar added 228 assists in her first collegiate season, which included four starts at setter.

Seniors Berklie Baker and Dani Dennison headlined TCU’s back row. A two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree, Baker played in 20 matches with 14 starts at libero in 2019, compiling 244 digs, second only to Dennison who led TCU with 308. Dennison started 23 matches and recorded her 1,000th career dig this past season. Sophomore Bella Swafford chipped in 84 digs in her 24 matches and three starts as a defensive specialist, while junior Ashley Wehrstein appeared in 14 matches as a defensive specialist and spot server.

The Horned Frogs tied for eighth in the Big 12 Conference in 2019, but expect TCU to take a significant leap this fall now that three of the team’s front-row players (Nalls, Adams and Manyang) and the team’s starting setter (Nichols) have a full collegiate season under their respective belts. TCU finished among the bottom half of Big 12 teams in most statistical categories, but ranked fourth in service aces with an average of 1.17 per set.