Southeastern volleyball coach Jenn King addresses the media.

Southeastern volleyball coach Jenn King is looking at the start of the athletic year in a new light and she’s enjoying the different perspective.

“We have 10 returning players,” King said. “We haven’t had to do as much teaching as we’ve had to do in years past.  We’ve had younger teams.

“So now we get to work on fine-tuning the system.”

The Savage Storm volleyball met with the media this week at Bloomer Sullivan Arena in Durant.  King is pleased not only to have her 10 returners, but with how they’ve returned for the season.

“Everyone came in excited and ready to go.”

SOSU was picked to finish eighth in the Great American Conference according to the preseason GAC coaches’ poll.  This hasn’t been a factor for King and her team.

“Typically with preseason polls it’s how everyone ended up last year,” King said.  “So when it came out, I wasn’t surprised.

“I think we are ahead of a couple of teams that we lost to last year and that speaks to the fact that we have a lot of returners.  The other coaches in the conference respect that.”

And King said her team is looking beyond just the polls.

“Our focus is bigger than that.  The girls’ ultimate goal is winning the last match of the season and being the first Great American volleyball team to be an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament this year.

“We’re just trying to grow and get better with every practice and every rep we get.”

Senior Taylor Benner talked about the growth of the Storm program in recent years

“When I first came here we were just basically our record,” Benner said.  “And when Coach King got here, we were all about being the best that we can.

“I know that my role on the team is to pass the torch along and encourage the girls and let them know that we can be better than what we think we are.”

But there is more to this year than just passing that torch.

“It’s about setting higher goals for ourselves and holding ourselves accountable to it.  Our motto for this season is to go after the ring and that’s what we’re after.”

Benner is a senior libero from Flower Mound, Texas, and is one of three seniors on the team.  She is joined by Kristin Martin and Marina Dias.  Dias is also a member of the Storm tennis team.

Junior Emily Gentle earned second-team All-GAC honors last season and was fifth in the conference in kills.  Madelynne Cera, another junior, also returns to the team following an honorable mention All-GAC season in 2012.GradientSOSUSmall

SOSU boasted the GAC Freshman of the Year last year in Megan Kunkel, who coming back for her sophomore year.

Southeastern opens the season Sept. 6 at Pittsburg, Kan., in the tough Pittsburg State Classic with the first match against the perennially strong host school.

SOSU is also collaborating with East Central to jointly host the South Central Classic in Durant on Sept. 13 and 14 in Bloomer Sullivan Arena.

The GAC portion of the schedule starts right after that with a break in the middle of the league slate to take part in the Missouri Southern State Classic, in which the Storm will face tough opposition from MIAA opponents.

Senior Day for SOSU will be Nov. 9 against Henderson State.

Joey McWilliams lives in Durant. He founded and provides the bulk of the content for OklahomaSports.Net. He is a long-time sports journalist, having covered sports via radio, newspaper, television and the Internet since 2000. Joey was the color analyst for the Southeastern Savage Storm football and basketball teams from 2001-2011 and again for football in 2015. He also does play-by-play for Southeastern volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball on radio and streaming Internet video for Mix 96.1 in Durant. He can also be seen on the GAC Sports Network and as the play-by-play announcer on the Showcase Game of the Week high school football broadcast on KSBI in OKC. Joey is an alum of both Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma State University. He completed his second bachelor's degree in 2012, a journalism/broadcasting degree at OSU in sports media. He earned first place in the television sports play-by-play category in the 2012 OAB/OBEA competition. Joey also broadcasts regularly on the NFHS Network and was on ESPN3 for the 2015 Live United Texarkana Bowl and on the call of the 2016 Great American Conference basketball tournaments. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on the Spano and Black Attack on the Sports Byline USA Network. He also coached high school girls' and boys' basketball for seven years and high school football for one season at Victory Life Academy.