OCALA--The College of Central Florida volleyball team opens up the 2017 season on the road at South Florida State College on Thursday night at 6 p.m. The Lady Patriots enter the season ranked No. 10 in NJCAA and No. 3 in the state.
The six-time Mid-Florida Conference champions will have a new look this year as they hit the court with a new head coach, Angel Gonzalez. Gonzalez is just the second head volleyball coach since the program's inception in 2011.
"I'm excited about the season and the potential this team can accomplish," said Gonzalez, who took over as the interim head coach after Flavia Siqueira's departure in December. " We have just four players returning so there's going to be a lot of new talent, but I like what I see so far."
Mid-Florida Conference First Team All-Conference selection Buse Ene and Kristin Schemm return for the Lady Patriots on the outside and right side positions. Taynan Paiva returns in the middle, while Nayrelis Pantojas will hold down the back line as libero.
Gonzalez is excited for the new talent that will fill the lineup this season.
Middle blockers Caiyi Huang and Veronica Brod Farias will join Paiva in the middle, while Carolin Santa, Marina Cruz and Desiree Mack will partner with Ene and Schemm to give CF a powerful presence on the outside. Ocala native Yomaries Villegas and Anyssa Guzman will guard the back court as solid defensive specialists, as well as backup liberos behind Pantoja.
Aside from a new coach, there will also be a new setter guiding the ship for the Lady Patriots.
"The ladies have really started to come together over the preseason," said Gonzalez. "We've had some great scrimmages against NCAA Division II schools [Florida Southern, Rollins, St. Leo, Barry] that will prepare us for our tough conference."
A new coach and a new setter also brings a new conference alignment for 2017.
NJCAA No. 3 Polk State College and Eastern Florida State College join CF, Daytona State College and Lake-Sumter State College in the Mid-Florida Conference. Former rivals Santa Fe College, Florida State College at Jacksonville and St. Johns River State College each moved to the Panhandle Conference.
"Our conference will be just as hard, if not harder than last year... We've moved some teams around and bring in a good Polk State team," said Gonzalez. "We still have Daytona who's always good... so we're going to have to fight hard to get the [conference] championship back."
CF will be on the road for the first few weeks of the season, traveling to Idaho for the ever-tough College of Southern Idaho Invitational as well as several other non-conference matches around the state of Florida.
Conference play will get underway on September 21 when CF heads to Daytona. CF's home opener will take place on September 28 at 7 p.m. when they host Lake-Sumter. CLICK HERE for a full 2017 volleyball schedule. All home games will be livestreamed on CF's livestream page here.
For complete schedule and results, stay tuned to CFPatriots.net.