VALDOSTA -- At this time of the year, you hear plenty of coaches talking about developing depth and going "two deep".

Football coaches, right? In this case, try a volleyball coach.

Third-year Valdosta State head volleyball coach Jon Teetzel has added nine new players to his six returnees from last year's 15-15 team. Enough to go "two deep" at each of the six positions on a volleyball court -- plus.

"I love having the numbers. It promotes competition between the teammates," said Teetzel. "It allows us to play during practice.

"Last year we had 11 players, so my assistant (Brook Sandburg) had to play. I don't want that, because I need another set of eyes out there watching practice."

It also allows Teetzel to turn to another player if the starter is having an off day.

"People are going to have off days, not have the days they want you to have. It's nice to have another person there to pick them up," he said.

With the increase in numbers comes an increase in underclassmen. The 15 players include eight freshmen and four sophomores. Outside hitter Kylie Mitchell is the lone senior, joined by junior outside hitter Amy Housemeyer and junior transfer Sarah Cargill, a middle hitter from Indian River Community College.

The freshmen are led by outside hitter Laura Lee Atkinson (Tallahassee, Fla.) and middle hitter Bentley Knox (Woodstock).

"Some of the freshmen came in ready to go," Teetzel said. "The sophomores and juniors see that, and it's fun to watch somedays."

Valdosta State was picked to finish fifth in the Gulf South East, one spot out of qualifying for the post-season conference tournament.

"It's based more on whatever you did last year," Teetzel said, noting that two of the group's eight coaches are new to the league. "I'm not mad we're picked fifth. If anything, it will motivate us."

VSU opens the season Aug. 30 vs. Albany State (2 p.m. at The Complex), then won't return home until Sept. 16 (vs. Augusta State). VSU will have its Red-Black scrimmage at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Complex, and will participate in Saturday's Fan Day (1 p.m., also at The Complex).

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