New faces look to lead UAM volleyball

MONTICELLO — The Arkansas-Monticello volleyball team will see a youth movement this season with a total of 11 newcomers, more than half of those coming from the high school ranks, and just four returning players making up the Cotton Blossoms roster.

“We’re going into the 10th season of UAM volleyball, and it’ll be a new beginning with a mostly new team with 11 new players and only four returners,” third-year head coach Peter Cruz said in a release. “This season, every player on the roster is one that I have recruited, which is exciting for me personally. … We were picked to finish 10th in the conference, which I hope motivates this incoming group to overachieve throughout the season.”

Cruz had added nine players since announcing the signings of then-high school seniors Aspen Luna and Jordan Filotei this past December following the 2013 season.

In addition to those players from the high school ranks, Alona Word (5-foot-11, middle hitter) comes from Travis High School in Richmond, Texas, Aubrey Harrison (5-foot-10, outside hitter) comes from Conroe High School in Texas, Symantha Sandee (5-foot-8, outside hitter) comes from Cornerstone Christian High School in Seguin, Texas, and Kyra Austin (5-foot-10, middle hitter) comes from from Paris High School in Arkansas.

The four players returning from the 2013 squad include seniors Jessica Cuba (outside hitter) and Tasha Evans (middle hitter), who both were in the starting mix last year. Kedra Johnson (outside hitter) and Brittney Beckham (setter) also return after seeing significant playing time as true freshman in 2013.

The Blossoms open the season at the Angelo State Invitational on September 5-6.