Texas A&M volleyball head coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn announced the Aggies’ spring competition schedule, which consists of three in-state events.
The first-year head coach will get to see her new team compete for the first time in an exhibition match at Rice on March 23. The Aggies then head to Austin on April 4 to face the Texas Longhorns at Gregory Gym, and they close out the spring competition schedule on April 14 at the F.A.S.T. Collegiate Invitational in Houston.
“We are excited on so many different levels to compete,” Kuhn said. “Every spring you can't wait to get across the net from someone else besides yourselves, and we also are excited to see our own response and how far we will have come from Day 1.”
Nine letterwinners and a redshirt transfer return from last year’s team that went 10-15. Kuhn also welcomes five freshmen who graduated high school in December and enrolled at Texas A&M for the spring semester.
“I can't wait to see these women compete, because it will be a whole different ballgame,” Kuhn said. “Once you put six players out there and everyone is competing for a starting role, the dynamics naturally get more competitive. I feel like that has been our focus—it’s team; it's being competitive. That is the culture we are trying to instill, whether it's in the weight room or the way we are training in the gym, just always pushing each other. So I'm excited to see how they are once we get into that competitive atmosphere.”
Rice, coached by Genny (Wood) Volpe, a former Aggie volleyball standout and Texas A&M Class of ’95, went 21-9 last year after reaching the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC). Texas, a team Kuhn coached against during her seven-year stint with Big 12 Conference-foe Kansas, went 27-3 last season and came within one win of reaching the NCAA Final Four for a sixth consecutive year. Twenty teams from Texas and Louisiana are scheduled to compete in the F.A.S.T. tournament at the F.A.S.T. Complex in Houston.
“The schedule is a good mix,” Kuhn said. “The F.A.S.T. tournament will be huge, because we will play at least four different teams. Going to Texas, being in that atmosphere will be a challenge in itself. That is just going to be an environment that we want to put our team in, and we can all learn who is going to step up. Same thing at Rice, a Friday night match in another prime time, competitive atmosphere. All these matches being in the area, hopefully it will give our fans a chance to see us in action and we will have some really nice crowds.”
The Aggies are currently participating in the NCAA-allowable individual practices and begin full team training on Feb. 26.
“Practice is going really well,” Kuhn said. “We are in individuals so it is a lot of skill work, and it has been good for us coaches, not only for figuring out just the basics of where the players are and where they have been with their training, but also in terms of building our relationship with them, getting to know them as individuals.”
When asked what has impressed her most since beginning the limited practices last month, Kuhn quickly replied, “The buy in and the energy. They have been very welcoming and open. They know this is a transition, but they also are embracing it. They are embracing being pushed and learning new things, training new ways. At times in transition there is frustration, but that is growth. In general, there is a natural growth in change. I also love the fact that they are good people. They are good players, they are good people, and that energy will be carried through. We are going to outwork people. We are going to work together. We are going to be a team. That's been exciting.”