Written By: Sam Wasson and Jordan Bostic
The libero is the unsung hero of many volleyball teams. Receiving serve is one of the most difficult things to do in volleyball, and this is the libero’s primary job. Without a good pass to start with, an offense cannot be executed. The libero is on the floor nearly the entire match and is only allowed to play in the back row. A great libero is expected to get nearly perfect passes to the setter every time (which is a very hard thing to do). The libero is also expected to be the best defensive player and usually possesses a hustling, never-say-die attitude about defending.
Undoubtedly the biggest hole to fill on the team is at the libero position. The Aggies graduated All-American and All-WAC libero Krystal Torres and will turn to a pair of players who hope to fill the massive void. Kelsi Phillips, a transfer from the University of New Mexico, and returning sophomore Bryanna Brown are both competing for the starting role. Phillips transferred to the program last season and redshirted the 2008 season. "Kelsi had the benefit of redshirting last year. I think it was good for her to be able to just train, learn a lot from Krystal. She's improved a lot," said Jordan. "I think she was a good defender last year but not a great serve receiver. I think she's great at both now."
Bryanna Brown saw limited playing time last season behind Torres, playing in 14 games and recording two digs. "Bry's improved a lot. She's a fantastic serve receiver and a relentless defender. She really chases balls down and does a fantastic job of digging driven balls," said Jordan. "She takes care of the easy play more often. I think she's going to see more playing time. She's definitely going to challenge for that libero spot as well."
Defensive specialists are used in the same function as the libero. Defensive specialists play only in the back row and must be counted on to pass great serve receive and make plays on defense. A defensive specialist’s only offensive weapon is their serve, so they are usually depended upon to have a consistently tough serve that causes problems for opposing teams. In a 6-2 offense, defensive specialists see their playing time decrease because there aren’t enough subs to go around. They are still used in special situations, however, so they must be ready to go in at all times.
The Aggies are a little light on experience in the defensive specialist position with senior transfer Amber Murphy and a pair of freshmen, Bianca Enriquez and Saasha Jacobsen, at the DS spot. Murphy comes to the Aggies after stops at Hawai'i-Hilo (2008) and San Jacinto Junior College (2006-2007). "Murph is a ball of energy and a great competitor. She's coming off a knee injury and isn't moving around 100% percent. She hits a really tough serve," said Coach Jordan. "When she gets healthy she's definitely going to play a role, whether that be as a DS/libero or a serving specialist."
Both Jacobsen and Enriquez will likely be redshirted this season. "Saasha is a really good athlete. The confidence level needs to improve but she's shown flashes of being a pretty good defender," said Jordan. "Bianca is a solid player. I think she's got a lot to learn which is great. She's got a high ceiling, a lot of room for improvement. She's a good athlete and I think with a year redshirting she'll turn out to be a pretty good player."