With only four sophomores in the fold, the Lamar Community College volleyball team will rely heavily on a bountiful class of talented and diverse freshmen.
Incoming Lopes of all positions -- from as near as Walsenburg, Colorado, and as far as Rixheim, France -- will join forces in Lamar this August to continue the program's push in Region IX.
Over the next few weeks Lopes Volleyball will introduce each of its incoming freshmen, starting today with the first five, in chronological order of commitment.
Elena Gilliam was the first of six new Colorado natives to sign with Lamar this spring. The Delta High School (Delta, Colorado) graduate is a 6'3" middle blocker and right side who will provide elite height and length along the net. Elena plans to get her A.A. and pursue a career in teaching.
"The first signing of the offseason is always special, as it signifies the direction of the new class and it seems to give you some momentum during the recruiting season," LCC head coach Dante Geoffrey said. "We had been in communication with Elena for quite a while. She had a couple options but we were able to get her on campus and show her how we do things and how we treat our players like family. I think it was comfortable for her and we are thrilled she chose us.
"She's going to walk in our gym as an immediate presence at the net with a lot of room to grow."
Ellie Cooper is another strong front-row player from Colorado. Cooper played for Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colorado, and Jeffco Performance Volleyball Club. Ellie is a 5'11" middle blocker whose desire to help others has led her to pursue a career in occupational therapy.
"Ellie's ability to process information and apply it to what she's doing gives her a tremendous ability to learn new concepts and techniques, and improve quickly," Coach Dante said. "She's already proven to be very coachable and will be someone the staff and teammates can rely on."
Cassidy Dotter will own the distinction of having the shortest drive home for the holidays. Cassidy is a graduate of John Mall High School in Walsenburg, Colorado -- about two hours west of Lamar -- and played for Southern Colorado Precision Volleyball Club. She's a 5'8" left-handed pin hitter with a solid block and a heavy swing that will demand the attention of opposing defenses.
"I saw her get six kills in one set at Crossroads this year; she knows how to put a ball down, that's for sure," Coach Dante said. "Cassidy is a terminal attacker and will provide another strong weapon for our setters. But don't let her big swing overshadow everything else about her game. She's well-rounded and can contribute in a variety of ways."
Kami Steinbacher is a self-described "utility player," but without any of the negative connotations that often accompany the term. Steinbacher, from Vail, Arizona, is used to moving from one position to the next depending on the day and game situation. Kami, who stands at 5'8", played practically everywhere between her days at Cienega High School and Zona Volleyball Club. Kami is more than capable of being effective at all three positions in the front row and has the ball control to play as a defensive/serving specialist if needed.
"Players like Kami are a coach's best friend because she is capable of being the answer to multiple questions," Coach Dante said. "She can start a match on the right side but if injury or performance prompts a change she can easily slide over or back to make winning plays at other spots on the court. It's probably a blessing and a burden for her but she's demonstrated great attitude and she'll be a positive force in our gym."
Peyton Greeson will fortify the Lopes' backrow as a defensive specialist/libero with a style of play suited for Lamar's brand of volleyball. Peyton's propensity to make the simple, smart play rather than a flashy or desperate play, is what made her seem like a good fit for Lamar. The 5'3" Aurora, Colorado, native is a graduate of Cherokee Trail High School and played club for Colorado Volleyball Association.
"She's calm and collected and gets to where she needs to be before she needs to be there," Coach Dante said. "When the instincts and volleyball IQ are already there, it makes life a lot easier on the coaches. We can focus on the technique and skill side of things, and Peyton will be able to apply it to her game right away."
Lamar opens its season as the host of the Quiznos Classic, a three-day, eight-team tournament held in the LCC Wellness Center Aug. 23-25. The Lopes start things off against Frank Phillips at 6 p.m. on August 23 and continue with matches against Dodge City Community College and Pratt Community College on Aug. 24 and Cisco College and Butler Community College on Aug. 25.