With plenty of upside and plenty to prove in a season unlike any other, Clemson volleyball is set to compete at a high level in 2020. The ACC is playing a condensed volleyball schedule this fall, and a conference title is on the line. However, the NCAA canceled all fall championships for Olympic sports, meaning that, unless the NCAA decides to hold the fall championships during the spring semester, no postseason berth will be at stake. Regardless, with several seniors on the roster, Head Coach Michaela Franklin’s players are certain to give it their all on the volleyball court in the coming months.
Clemson is slated to begin its season against The Citadel on Friday, Sept. 18, and the Tigers will host the match on their home floor inside Jervey Gym. The remaining schedule will be composed of a series of two-match meetings with conference foes. While the ACC’s volleyball calendar has not been fully etched in stone at the time of this article’s publication, the Tigers are guaranteed to play two matches at home against Wake Forest in late September, a couple of matches on the road versus Florida State at the beginning October, a duo of matches at home involving Miami in early October and a pair of matches at home with Georgia Tech in late October.
The 2020 campaign is Franklin’s fourth in Tigertown, and she will assuredly be aiming to improve upon last season’s growing pains that her team experienced. In 2018, Franklin coached a Tiger squad that won 19 matches, the program’s most since 2012, and reached the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. Last year, the Tigers suffered a setback, winning just 11 matches and finishing near the bottom of the ACC standings. A turnaround is likely though, as Franklin’s current squad is primarily composed of experienced veterans and talented newcomers.
An NCAA rule change for 2020 allows all athletes competing in fall sports to redshirt, regardless of how many competitions they take part in. The rule is intended to offset COVID-19 concerns and assuage fears regarding whether or not athletes will maintain eligibility if forced to miss substantial playing time because of factors related to the virus. With that being said, several of the Clemson volleyball seniors may choose to return in 2021, but, for now, it is to be assumed that 2020 will be their final year in Clemson orange and regalia.
Should they choose to finish their collegiate careers this autumn, senior middle hitter/right-side hitter Alyssa Deloney, senior defensive specialist/libero Madi Howell, senior setter Lisie Kit and senior outside hitters Brooke Bailey, Kaylin Korte and Jori Radtke will be eager to go out in style. Many of the aforementioned upperclassmen made up the original freshman class that ushered in the Franklin era at Clemson, and their talent and experience will complement the promising 2020 freshman unit nicely.
Right-side hitter/outside hitter Camryn Hannah, setter Jenna Moore, defensive specialist/libero Anna Renwick and outside hitters Colleen Finney and Cate Long will embark on their freshman journeys with the Tigers this season, and several of them are well-positioned to substantially contribute. Rounding out Clemson’s 18-player roster are sophomores Ani Clark (middle blocker) and Mckenna Slavik (setter) and juniors Ashtynne Alberts (outside hitter), Crystal Childs (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Katelyn DeGuzman (defensive specialist/libero), Ava Pritchard (middle blocker) and Solei Thomas (right-side hitter).
The depth and playing experience boasted by Clemson’s roster bodes well for a return to winning form this season. Franklin also welcomed a new assistant coach to her staff in the offseason, with Jesse Ortiz joining the Tigers to serve as the team’s defensive coordinator. Former professional volleyball player Maddie Haggerty also signed on as a volunteer assistant coach. Like Ortiz, Haggerty has ties to the highly successful Michigan State volleyball program. Associate Head Coach Jackie Simpson-Kirr is back in the fray, coaching alongside Franklin, and Kara Thomason completes the full-time volleyball staff as the Clemson Volleyball Director of Operations.
Expectations surrounding Clemson volleyball are fairly high this year, as the team is primed to generate plenty of excitement at Jervey Gym. Although the fate of the 2020 NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament hangs in the balance, the Tigers are guaranteed to be motivated in their pursuit of the coveted ACC crown. Franklin’s team is certainly not lacking in athleticism or leadership, and the winning combination of those two attributes indicates that the Tigers should not be lacking in victories at season’s end, either.