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COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: Friel hopeful for explosive senior year - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: Friel hopeful for explosive senior year

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Posted: Monday, August 19, 2019 6:02 pm

For UTPB’s Skyler Friel, the fact that this is her last year in a volleyball uniform for the Falcons hasn’t quite fully come into focus but she knows it will soon enough.

When it does, Friel hopes that she has no regrets and that she can meet the goals she has set this season.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Friel said. “I’m sure that it’ll hit me somewhere down the road.

But coming into this season, I want to beat the hitting percentage that I set last year. I want keep the standards that coach has set for us this year.”

Last year, Friel set a team single-season record for hitting percentage at .319, placing her fourth in the Lone Star Conference.

Friel and her teammates are coming off a historic season in 2018 that saw the Falcons make the conference tournament for the first time in team history, going 14-16 overall and 9-11 in conference play.

Last season included an upset over nationally-ranked Tarleton State before the Falcons’ season came to an end in the conference tournament against Texas A&M-Commerce.

“We’re really excited going into this season,” Friel said. “We have a great returning class. We also have a lot of great new people that are coming in.”

Friel’s performance from last year earned her first team All-Conference honors. She was also named to the academic All-Conference team.

“She’s a great role model for all of our players, especially the younger ones,” UTPB head coach Tim Loesch said. “She does what she’s asked of. She’s a great student who’s been named all-academic conference and she’s a great player.

“She’s a great teammate and that’s why she’s one of our team captains. For one player to do all of those three things, it’s just amazing. She’s really grateful in a lot of ways.”

Friel, who majors in kinesiology, plans to graduate in the spring. After that, she hopes to be closer back home to Dallas.

“Beyond here, I’d like to go to physical therapy school and move closer back to home to the Dallas area,” Friel said.

But as she and her teammates prepare for the 2019 season, they’re excited with what they have coming back.

Friel will be one of four seniors returning this year.

“It definitely helps us and any other returning players,” Friel said. “We’re all pretty pumped to play Tarleton State again. We’ll play some of the newer teams that we haven’t had a chance to play yet and we’re pretty pumped to play them.”

The Falcons will face some different competition in a new-look Lone Star Conference that recently merged with the Heartland Conference, making it the largest NCAA Division II conference in the nation.

There are now 18 schools that compete in volleyball in the conference.

“I think it’s going to be good for us,” Friel said. “I think our team is pretty adaptable to teams that we’re facing in the conference. Coach has set up a good preseason for us. We’re going to face some teams that we’re not used to.”

But it won’t all be brand new teams that UTPB will be facing this year as the Falcons have faced teams like St. Edward’s and Lubbock Christian in previous seasons in tournament games.

“I think we got a taste of what it is in our new conference,” Friel said. “But also, I know for us, we’ve played St. Edwards and for some reason, that’s a game to us that’s important.

“I’m really not sure why, but when we go to the Austin tournament, that’s one team that’s really good that we’ve faced and we want to beat the best.”

Regardless of how the season turns out, Friel is hoping to leave the team in better shape than when she found it.

“I would say that another goal that I have set is a team goal in that I want an improvement in everybody,” Friel said. “That’s like a big thing for me. I want to leave knowing that everything is going to increase and be better like for the next year after I’m gone.”

>>Follow Michael Bauer on Twitter at @OAMichaelba

Odessa, TX

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