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Volleyball set to kick off 2022 season with loaded freshmen class

Caleb Browder, Contributor

Former Clemson outside hitter Brooke Bailey (11) goes for the kill against South Carolina in 2019.

Coming off a 12-18 season in 2021, Clemson volleyball is set to kick off its 2022 season on Saturday against Georgia, with several new faces on the Tigers’ roster joining the returning 12 players from last year’s team.
Head coach Jackie Simpson Kirr will be coaching seven freshmen on this season’s roster, all of which Simpson Kirr signed in her first recruiting class since becoming head coach in May of last year.
Where Clemson struggles offensively on the court, Simpson Kirr believes that Mia McGrath, a 5-foot11 outside hitter, will be as valuable as they come.
“Mia has a great all-around game and will help our ball control. She can score from anywhere on the court,” Kirr said in a press release in March.
McGrath is a Loyola Academy (Deerfield, Ill.) product and set the school record of 45 aces and 306 kills, earning MVP honors for her team.
Defensively, Maggie Patterson, an in-state addition who boasts 1,000 digs in her high school career, is another asset that Simpson Kirr will have at her disposal.
“We love when we can have talented student-athletes from right here in South Carolina join our program,” Simpson Kirr said. “Maggie is a great defender, brings a ton of positive energy and knows how to get her attackers fired up!”
Other incoming freshmen include Sophie Catalano, Brooklyn Conner, Becca Michelle, Mia Moore and Caroline Sele.
On the coaching side, Dan O’Keefe provides another fresh face to the program as an assistant coach. Also dotted recruiting coordinator when given his new title in January, O’Keefe was previously assistant coach at Wright State University.
O’Keefe turned his program around during his tenure there, winning a conference title in just his second year and leading Wright State to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Even with the additions, Clemson will need high performing players with impressive marks across the court in order to keep up.
In their 2021 season, the Tigers averaged 1.626 errors per set in comparison to their opponents’ 1.14 average. Clemson also averaged 1.82 blocks per set last year, the worst mark in the ACC and No. 253 in Division I women’s volleyball.
In 2021, Clemson was victorious in three of its 18 conference games.
While both sides of the ball need work, a promising new class of players with a revamped coaching staff may improve their performance.
Clemson’s first match will be against Georgia on Aug. 20, but kicks off at home court with the Big Orange Bash Friday, Aug. 26 and 28. Conference matches will begin in late September.

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