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Eastern Florida Volleyball Looking Forward to New Season

July 3, 2013 - Eastern Florida State College head volleyball coach Herb Tokumoto had a straightforward response when asked about his outlook for the 2013 season: "Get on board, buckle up and enjoy the ride."

That Eastern Florida, which until July 1 competed as Brevard Community College, finished 7-24 last season — including going 0-8 in the Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference — is history. Those results are nothing more than a line on a ledger. It's now 2013 and Eastern Florida has eight newcomers who Tokumoto and assistant coach Kim Tokumoto believe will mesh well with the six returnees for an exciting campaign.

"Our returning players have already committed to the idea that we never dwell on the past," Herb Tokumoto said. "Yes we learn from it but never dwell on it. They feel they have an opportunity to show they deserve to be here in our program and will prove it to anyone who has any doubt.

"I also feel we recruited well this year with this class of upper level student-athletes. We feel they will bring us to a higher level of competition within our team which in turn will increase our level of total competition."

Eastern Florida opens the regular season on Friday and Saturday Aug. 23 and 24 at the Florida State College Jacksonville Tournament. It plays its first home match on the Melbourne Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 3, hosting non-conference foe Daytona State College and its first conference match on Thursday, Sept. 12 hosting Indian River State College.

The Titans will be practicing and playing on their home campus for the entire season, putting the team ahead of last season when it initially practiced and played an hour away on the Titusville Campus and didn't play on the Melbourne Campus until Oct. 9 due to installation of a new gym floor.

"The focus of getting a new wood floor, which I believe will in the long run be a benefit to our school, our program and all our indoor athletes was a priority for us, not realizing the strain it would put on my team and athletes," Herb Tokumoto said.

"Imagine having to travel a minimum of five days a week, practicing for three hours, bringing books to study on the trip over and back. Every match we played was an away match, which made the team feel like it had nowhere to call home which was taxing. Not having to travel over an hour one way just to practice and being able to be in a familiar environment that is our home I feel will be beneficial to our team dynamics. I believe it will be great for our returnees to have a facility that will be home and they understand what it was like last season. This will be a great motivator for them and our freshmen."

Returning for the Titans are sophomores middle blocker Micaela Vowinkel, Carson City, NV; libero and defensive specialist Sara Watkins, Oviedo, FL; outside hitter Alana Nielander, Lake Placid, FL; middle blocker Ashley Dills, Winter Haven, FL; libero, setter Taylor Gembecki, Fort Myers, FL; and outside hitter Ashley Gonzalez, Warner Robins, GA.

Newcomers are sophomore Brittany Collison, Lake Placid High, Lake Placid, FL; and freshmen Arianna Bethel, Martin County High, Stuart, FL; Mariah Davis, John Carroll High, Fort Pierce, FL; Carol Kiam Assato, Doctors Charters Schools of Miami, FL and Vila Carrao, Sao Paulo, Brazil; McKenzie Price, Carson High, Carson City, NV; Lindsey Pugh, Titusville High, Titusville, FL; Michelle Rodriguez, Escuela Vocational Republica de Costa Rica Caguas, Puerto Rico; Heather Welch, Merritt Island Christian School, Merritt Island, FL. Michelle Phillips from Merritt Island Christian School is team manager.

Expectations are high.

"We have to trust that the players who are not here for the summer are being diligent and dutiful in their preparations because they will have to hit the ground running," Herb Tokumoto said.

"Our schedule should be competitive. The majority of the teams are Florida teams. We are playing in some tournaments that should be challenging since we will be facing several out of state colleges. It will be a test for us. It will be good."

As for the rugged Southern Conference that has been dominated by powerhouse Miami Dade College, which finished 8-0 last season, and also includes Broward College, Indian River and Palm Beach State, Herb Tokumoto anticipates another stern test.

"I am expecting all our conference opponents to step their games up as well," he said. We have a lot of freshmen. A lot of our opponents are returning sophomores so they will have an experienced core of players. We are in the rebuilding mode but the work must be done efficiently and quickly because we are a month and a half away from our first matches."

Eastern Florida begins practice on Aug. 1.