Written by: Neil Frawley
Big things are brewing for the Lady Blazer volleyball program.
After 17 years away from coaching a Division II program, Blazers’ new head coach Mike Swan returns after coaching the Evansville Aces, a Division I program in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“I am very excited to join the Valdosta State family and look forward to meeting the expectations that come with working at this university,” Swan said in a press release.
Volleyball guru Swan has amassed a total of 520 wins in his career, which places him 35th all time in number of wins as a volleyball coach.
“We were very pleased to have Coach Swan join our athletic program,” Herb Reinhardt, Valdosta State athletic director said.
“He comes from a very strong background. He’s had success at every level. So, for us to be able to attract him to VSU is something I am very proud of, and I think he will do a tremendous job. ”
The 27 years of coaching experience that Swan brings to the table is what VSU hopes will turn what has been a mediocre volleyball program into a Gulf-South Conference championship contender.
“Our volleyball program has certainly not been bad… But I think Coach Swan is the type of individual that has a chance of moving our program to the next level… making us a player on the national level.” Reinhardt said.
Swan is clear about the goals that have been set for his new club.
“We want to win a conference championship, want to have a winning record, (and) we want to win at home in order to build up a fan base,” Swan said.
Swan is not the only one expecting a big change this season; rather it’s the entire program that has its sights on a new standard.
“It’s like a whole culture change. So, In order to be very successful you have to do things a little differently,” Jordana Price, assistant volleyball coach said.
“I am overly excited about this season.”
A total of seven newcomers, including four freshman, a sophomore and two juniors make up this off-season’s recruiting class.
The other six members are all returners from last season, none of which are seniors.
As far as players go, VSU has plenty of depth in every position.
According to Coach Swan, despite junior setter Ashley Lala being selected last week to the preseason all-GSC team, it is still not certain that she will be the starter over Winthrop transfer Jessica Cordato.
“I think we have players who can make all conference, but I also think we have a lot of competition at each position. I think it’s going to be very competitive at each playing spot,” Swan said.
No.19 West Florida has been tabbed to win conference for the sixth straight season while the new look Blazers are picked to finish fifth.
The season begins with VSU traveling to West Georgia on Sept. 6 for a weekend tournament then returning home for its home-opener on Sept.10 against Albany State.
“We obviously still have a lot of areas we need to work on…But I see the potential there. So, that part of it I am encouraged by. I think the new players are bringing a lot more athleticism and experience to our squad,” Price said.