By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Missy Whittemore has known the ins and outs of Southeastern Conference volleyball for nearly two decades, first as an All-SEC setter at Florida and, for nearly a decade, as a college volleyball analyst for Sun Sports and CSS.
Four weeks into the 2011 SEC volleyball campaign, Whittemore sat down with the SEC Digital Network to give her analysis of the season so far.
SEC Digital Network: Tennessee has been able to move into the driver’s seat in the SEC race. Even though they’re such a young team, what has been the key to their success so far this season?
“Not only is Tennessee ahead in the race, but they have some of the toughest road trips out of the way. I am looking forward to their mid-week match with Kentucky, which has really turned up the heat as of late. For Tennessee, this could be a real test as it will be their third match in a six-day span and they will have to play it on the road. However, my gut feeling is that they will answer the call because I love the passion with which this team plays. They seem fearless, and perhaps for good reason, since they have four players averaging over two kills per set and one of them is Kelsey Robinson who is pushing five kills per set and making it look easy.”
SEC Digital Network: What player in the league has impressed you the most so far this season?
“I have to start by saying that I have not seen all the teams in person quite yet, and I also have to say that having played the setter's position, setters tend to draw my eye. However, I think that anyone who has seen Tennessee play has got to be pretty impressed with freshman setter Mary Pollmiller. Personally, I like her quick delivery. I think she puts up a beautiful ball that is nearly always killable. Not only is her team hitting just under .300, but as a youngster, she runs Tennessee's offense with both the energy and the poise that a setter needs.”
SEC Digital Network: LSU has struggled early on in its conference season. What will the Tigers have to do to regroup in order to win the Western Division and make another NCAA Tournament appearance?
“LSU has some young players in key positions, but I still think the Western Division is very much within their reach. They have all the pieces of the puzzle, and most importantly, they have been such a great ball-control team in recent years. I think that as soon as they can get all the wheels turning at the same time, they will be a team to reckon with. LSU could be a team who surprises opponents the second time around in the double-round robin. Perhaps, some big SEC wins that second time around could bode well for their tournament cause.”
SEC Digital Network: Which team has been the biggest surprise to you so far in the SEC and why?
“I've got to say Tennessee. With the injury to Kayla Jeter, I was not expecting Tennessee to be this good this early. They are a lot of fun to watch and they are the team everyone is chasing. With that will come some late season pressure, but they will be playing a lot of the big names on their home court.”
SEC Digital Network: In your opinion, what does the addition of Texas A&M to the SEC mean for SEC volleyball?
“I think a prestigious Texas school like A&M is a wonderful addition for SEC volleyball. Not only will they bring with them a high level of play, but this move will also create a greater awareness of SEC volleyball in the state of Texas which happens to be a great recruiting base for this sport.”