University of Georgia setter Meghan Donovan (22), a junior from St. Louis, Missouri, sets the ball during a match against Auburn University on Nov. 15, 2018 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs in three straight sets. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

With the opening match of Georgia’s volleyball season quickly approaching, head coach Tom Black has stressed the importance of leadership and veteran presence within his team as the Bulldogs look to improve on a disappointing 15-14 season in 2018.

“I think our leadership group has done a great job,” Black said. “It definitely starts with Meghan Donovan, she’s an awesome senior leader and a great player, one of the best in the country at her position ... Dalaney Hans, Kendall Glover and Brynn Chandler have been just great leaders…our leadership group has done a great job of providing that on and off the court.”

This core will prove critical in providing experience to what is a very young Georgia team. Donovan is the team’s only senior on a squad that will welcome four freshmen to their first taste of collegiate volleyball.

This year’s team does have some of its most important players back in uniform. The Bulldogs return their team leaders from a year ago in kills (Rachel Ritchie: 382), digs (Glover: 372), assists (Donovan: 1,273), and aces (Ritchie: 32).

Moreover, veteran experience will play a major role in the early parts of the season as the team transitions into the flow of games after a month of preseason preparations.

“We’ve been practicing for a while,” Black said. “It’s been great, we’ve had an extra week of practice than we normally do, but you’re always preparing to actually play someone … In the beginning of the season, you’re just trying to put things in place and get as good as you can. Once you actually play an opponent, you really start to see where you’re doing well and where you are trying to build so I think over the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to pinpoint that.”

Following an exhibition win over Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, last Saturday, the Bulldogs will get the regular season underway with the Big Orange Bash in Clemson, South Carolina ,on Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. against Clemson. After facing the Tigers on Friday night, Georgia will take on Kennesaw State and Wofford in a doubleheader on Saturday.

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