The University of Mary volleyball team plays in the same conference as a seven-time national champion and last year's national runner-up. However, the Marauders' off-season has given them confidence that they'll be able to compete against some top teams.
Thais Franca is starting her first full year as head coach. She was the interim last season, replacing former coach Melissa Chaplin. She says the team carried a great spring season into the summer months.
"We talked during the spring season, I also talked to them about commitment and responsibility as players," said Franca. "I believe that was important because the majority of the group was back in June and then not only that, but in July we had most of the team back on campus working with our strength and conditioning coach."
The players say that effort over the summer has helped this team find a new identity.
"I'm extremely excited to start my last season here and to show everybody what this program is made of and how far we have come," said senior middle hitter Paige Smith. "From my freshman year, my sophomore year, and the season we had last year wasn't, I don't think, really us. So this is the true year that I think you will see the true, new volleyball program."
The Marauders will also receive a boost to the roster as former Century standout A.J. Jacobs returns to play this season. She took last year off but will rejoin the team this year.
"The one I call the coming back player is Alexis Jacobs, we know her as A.J. She's an outside hitter, played here in the past. She took one year off and she decided to come back to our program which is a huge addition to our program," Franca said.
The Marauders start the season September 4 at a tournament in Missouri. Their home opener is September 8 against Dickinson State.