BREVARD, N.C.-The Tornados open the 2013 season tonight under first-year head coach Kelly Burdeau at 6:30 p.m. in Boshamer Gym.
The Tornados will host the Cavaliers of UVa.-Wise, who are competing in their first season of NCAA Division II as a member of the Mountain East Conference.
Burdeau is a proven winner, both as a college player at Catawba, where she graduated in 2004, and as a high school coach in Winston-Salem, Statesville and Southport, N.C. She also had a brief stop at BC as an assistant to Brenda Skeffington in 2008 and 2009. The Tornados reached the SAC tournament in ’08.
At Catawba, her teams won both a South Atlantic Conference regular season championship and a conference tournament. At the North Carolina high school level, Burdeau’s teams won conference, district, sectional and regional championships and she was twice named Coach of the Year.
The Tornados are coming off of a 10-19 overall (1-17 SAC) record a year ago, and Burdeau’s summer was largely spent on the recruiting trail. The result is six talented new freshmen, three standing 5-9, and a pair of six-footers.
“We needed height, and we got some,” Burdeau said. “Three of these girls are from in-state, and one each is from Tennessee, Arizona and Washington state. Every position on the team is wide open, and our seniors know that nothing is guaranteed just because they’ve been in the program for three years.”
All but one of Burdeau’s seniors are North Carolinians, Amanda Possidente from Salisbury, Joy Oswalt from Cape Carteret, Erin Rollins from Murphy, Megan Clark from Lenoir and Kortney Conner from Franklin. Kayla Hanus is from Kent, Washington just south of Seattle.
“I’ll coach this team based on our existing talent,” Burdeau said. “We’re working two to three hours a day six days a week. I wanted to do something a little different to start the year, so we opened with a midnight practice,” she added. “Our practices are intense, and the plan is to build conditioning into the practice sessions themselves.”
Asked what she sees as the strengths of her team thus far, Burdeau said, “Attitude. Attitude and the fact that the team led the conference in aces scored serving a year ago.”
Coach Burdeau is assisted this year by Chelsey Pruitt, who was a volleyball player at BC when Burdeau was at Brevard in 2008-09. A back injury forced Pruitt to return to her Sacramento, Calif. home for surgery, and she graduated from Sacramento State in 2012.
There are a couple of changes in the SAC this year, with Queens College of Charlotte and South Carolina’s Coker College joining the conference and bringing the number of league volleyball teams to 12. The top eight will advance to the conference tournament at Newberry in November.
The Tornados will also play three matches as a part of the North Greenville Invitational Tournament this weekend, opening against Lander at 4 p.m. on Friday. The Tornados will see St. Augustine’s and North Greenville on Saturday afternoon to wrap the tournament.