By Havanna Hagans

With four returning seniors as well as a roster that breathes balance and experience, Eastern Head Volleyball Coach Lori Duncan said this team is potentially setting itself up for a championship.Middle blocker Kasha Brozek, right sider Denise Grundhoefer, outside hitter Jessica Sabath and setter Kelly Jennings all return for another season, without All-American Liz Guard.

“I lement the fact that Liz isn’t with us anymore,” head coach Lori Duncan said.

Guard graduated last spring and left the Colonels with a few elements to replace.

Duncan said the team plans to fix the loss with a little bit of balance.

“We are a better team because we don’t have to depend on one player,” Duncan said. “We’ve gotten better at other areas. The key is to have the whole group step up.”

Brozek will do most of her work in the middle with two sophomores, Bridget Mustard and Amanda Wilson, and a freshman, Kirby Barnhart, for extra assurance and backup on the court.

As one of the most versatile players, Sabath is not one to look over top of, Duncan said.

“She not only has superior technique, but she also has great instincts,” Duncan said.

Selected twice as an OVC All-Conference pick, Jennings and teammate junior Brittany Nobilio, two-time OVC Defensive Player of the Year, head up the offense and defense respectively.

Lacking 350 digs to be on top of the program’s all-time list, this could be Nobilio’s special year.

Another good part of the Colonels’ offense is junior Amy Arllinghaus.

Arlinghaus finished last season averaging 3.7 kills per game.

The Colonels serve their first ball of the season tomorrow night against Northern Illinois University, and are hoping to block the Huskies out of a win.

The Huskies, picked to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference Western Division, ended last season with a 16-17 record, considerably lower than the Colonels’ 23-7.

Duncan said a lot of the teams Eastern will face in the upcoming tournament are similar to the Colonels, but practice is over.

“Now it’s time to start putting things together and start beating people,” Duncan said.

Both teams open their season after the flip of the coin in the fourth annual Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational at 8 p.m. in DeKalb, Ill.

Reach Havanna at havanna_hagans@eku.edu