The Wolfpacker

September 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 68 of 95

SEPTEMBER 2017 ■ 69 BY MATT CARTER B efore her first year ever as a head coach, Linda Hampton-Keith did not know what to anticipate. She kept receiving requests to put on paper what she expected. Her general reaction: "I have no idea." Hampton-Keith decided to come up with three scenarios: best case, worst case and somewhere in the middle, which she figured to be most realistic. Her best-case record was 20-12. After a strong showing in ACC play, during which the Pack went 13-7, NC State finished … 20-12. That does not mean that Hampton-Keith is better prepared for year two, in terms of what to expect. "Not even close," she said. "As a matter of fact, year two has turned out to be way more difficult than year one. Year one you don't know what you don't know. For me, the honeymoon is over for everyone involved. … "Everyone talks about how hard it is to put a new culture in place. What they don't talk about is how hard it is to maintain that mov- ing forward." On paper, though, the Pack could field one of its best squads in recent memory. There were only two seniors on the squad that set new school records for ACC wins and confer- ence sweeps (six), not to mention recording the first top-10 win in program history when it triumphed at No. 10 Florida State. NC State also defeated a pair of conference champions in Boise State (Mountain West) and SMU (American Athletic). After finishing the 2015 season at No. 154 in the RPI, the Wolfpack improved to No. 64 at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign. Senior outside hitter Julia Brown was named first-team All-ACC a year ago. She can recall watching the NCAA Tournament selection show and realizing how close the team is to that achievement after not being in the picture her first two years. "We really focused on being a good team- mate," Brown said. "That was our main goal at first. We were trying to build relationships with each other on and off the court so that when we're able to communicate with each other off the court, then when we're playing together everything is smoother. "We know how to communicate to the person next to us." Brown, who was named preseason All- ACC, headlines the returning players. Some talented newcomers — including outside hitter Bree Bailey, the daughter of former NCSU basketball star Thurl Bailey and a senior transfer from Arizona State — will compliment the veterans. Bailey, who like Brown was named pre- season All-ACC, was recruited by Hamp- ton-Keith at Arizona State and kept an eye on her success at NC State. "Just to see that progress in her first year made me think she's got to be doing some- thing right so I wanted to be a part of that," Bailey said. Fellow Arizona State transfer Kylie Pick- rell, a setter, joined the team as a junior, and ■ PREVIEW VOLLEYBALL BUILDING MOMENTUM In Year Two Under Head Coach Linda Hampton-Keith, Expectations Are Higher For The Wolfpack ■ By The Numbers 12.81 Assists per set last season for NC State, a new program rally-scoring era record. The Wolfpack also set a new mark with 1,563 total assists. .952 The reception percentage for the Pack in 2016, also a new school record. 13.46 Kills per set average, a new NC State best. The Pack had 1,642 total kills, second most in program history. In her first season as head coach, Linda Hampton-Keith directed NC State to her exact, best-case scenario at 20-12. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS Newcomer To Watch Melissa Evans was named the Colorado High School Class 5A Player of the Year as a senior at Highlands Ranch High School in Lone Tree when she led all 5-A players in the state with 483 kills. She also won tournament MVP honors and was a two-time all-state honoree. Her older sister, Jasmine Evans, will also be a freshman on this year's Wolfpack squad.

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