BOONE — Expectations are high, at least at the Holmes Center, for the Appalachian State volleyball team.
The rest of the Sun Belt Conference has some expectations for the defending East Division champions. The Mountaineers were selected by the league’s coaches to finish second behind Coastal Carolina this season.
Instead of starting their season with some lower-level opponents, Appalachian State put No. 24 Arizona on its early schedule. Appalachian State won’t play a home match until it host Western Carolina Sept. 12 in the Appalachian Invitational.
Before the Mountaineers get there, they play seven matches away from home, including showdowns at Duke on Sept. 7 and at Clemson on Sept. 10.
After hosting Western Carolina, App State also hosts Iowa State on Sept. 13 and N.C. State on Sept. 14.
Appalachian State lost of four graduated seniors, including standout setter Becky Porter. But, newcomer Sam Bickley handed out 53 assists in App State’s 3-2 win over East Tennessee State in an exhibition match at the Holmes Center on Aug. 23.
“We graduated four great seniors,” Mountaineers coach Matt Ginipro said. “The biggest missing piece is Becky Porter in the setting spot. We also had a setter leave the program, so we brought a freshman setter in. We had two brand new setters, but pretty much beyond that, everybody that was in the (Sun Belt Conference) championship match last year is back.”
The good news for Appalachian State is several experienced players return, including former Watauga standout defensive specialist Sydney Farthing.
Farthing, who played in 18 matches her freshman season, has been a fixture in the Mountaineers lineup ever since. She played in 30 matches in 2018, starting nine, and finished with 253 digs.
Farthing was also third on the team with 23 service aces.
“She’s been a starter since her freshman year,” Ginipro said. “She’s been a starting defensive specialist since she got here. I’m proud of her for that because in the recruiting process, it was really, ‘Syd, we don’t know if you’re going to play.’ She came in and earned a starting spot.”
Appalachian State also returns senior outside hitter Emma Longley, who was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference after collecting 406 kills, 29 in a five-set win over Arkansas State. She also had 216 digs on the defensive side of the ball, and combined both skills by finishing the Mountaineers’ semifinal win over Arkansas State with 18 kills and 10 digs.
“She was a hair away from being Player of the Year last year,” Ginipro said. “The kid from Arkansas State put up better numbers, so I get it. But, she had to have been on a bunch of people’s ballots and she’s going into her senior year. This will be the year to build off her junior year.”
Appalachian State also returns Kara Spicer, who finished with 317 kills, which was second on the team, and Victoria Wilform, who had 180 kills.