Over the past four years, Emily Brown had been the face of Kansas University volleyball.
But in 2008, KU coach Ray Bechard will begin life without the Baldwin City native. And while Brown was an integral player on the court, Bechard already has prepped for the post-Brown era.
"She's been out there for the last four years helping the program in a lot of different ways," Bechard said. "So obviously you're thankful that you had that opportunity to have her involved in that. But obviously you look ahead, because there's a lot of very exciting things to look ahead to with all the returning players."
Bechard said the loss of Brown could force him to change his scheme, while also setting up other players to get substantial playing time.
"The system we ran last year was a two-setter system, and we'll more than likely be in a one-setter system this year, because Emily could set, hit and do a number of different things," Bechard said. "So that will open up somebody for a more substantial setting role and open up somebody to be opposite the setter on the right side because she did a little bit of both of those."
The KU coach has Katie Martincich, the second-highest player in assists behind Brown last year. However, the junior from Roeland Park Miege will have a newcomer to compete with at the setter position.
Incoming freshman Nicole Tate from Lindbergh High in St. Louis is the 36th-ranked player in her class by Prepvolleyball.com. Tate also was named to the Junior Olympics all-tournament team three years in a row from 2005-07.
"Much like a freshman quarter, a freshman point guard, it'll be interesting to see how Nicole Tate can challenge Katie Martincich for the setting position," Bechard said. "We think that position's probably up for grabs, so it'll be interesting to see how that develops."
Tate will be joined by Overland Park Aquinas graduate Allison Mayfield, who led her high school squad to back-to-back state titles her junior and senior years.
Bechard also has two walk-on outside hitters joining the incoming freshman class.
Lauren Hagan out of Whitesville, Ky., and Corrinne Stringer from Topeka Hayden - who originally committed to Georgia - bring with them all-state experience.