VALDOSTA — The Valdosta State volleyball team opens its 2006 season on Friday, Aug. 25 at the Saint Mary’s Tournament in San Antonio, Texas.

Several starters return for the Lady Blazers this year, including Laura Lee Atkinson, a senior outside hitter. Atkinson, a 2005 All-Gulf South Conference player, led VSU in most categories last season, including kills (482), kills per game (4.08), attempts (1,218), digs (417) and aces (49). Returning to the middle position is senior Bentley Knox, who dominated the net last season with 93 blocks, a 1.11 blocks per game average.

Two junior college transfer’s names are sure to make headlines this year. Nancy Marin, a junior from Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, Calif., will see time in the middle position. Marin, a two-time All-South Coast Conference honoree, picked up 312 kills and a .357 hitting percentage in 2005. Grace George, a senior from Eastern New Mexico, was a two-time All-Lone Star Conference selection while registering 129 blocks and 281 kills.

Freshman Stephanie Kirrstetter, from Boca Raton, Fla., brings an athletic game to the outside hitter position. Kirrstetter was a two-time first-team All-State selection at Spanish River High.

The Lady Blazers first take on the University of Alaska-Anchorage, which compiled a 7-19 record in 2005. Then VSU plays Rollins College, who returns three starters off of a squad that went 25-11 last year, in their second match.

On Saturday, the Lady Blazers take on the Colorado School of Mines. The Orediggers return two All-Conference players off a squad that went 20-11 in 2005. St. Mary’s, the Lady Blazers’ final opponent of the weekend, returns only one starter off of a team that went 15-18 last season.

“It is going to be a hard tournament to open up the season with,” said VSU head coach Sia Poyer. “Practices have been really good and should be a good indicator of where we’re at right now. The girls are looking good, and I just want us to play well and stay healthy.”

The home portion of VSU’s schedule begins on Aug. 31, as the Lady Blazers host the Ramada Limited Azalea Classic. Tickets for all home contests can be purchased by calling the Valdosta State Athletic Department at 229-333-5890.

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Valdosta State’s athletic department will be changing its website. Starting on Sept. 1, the web address for Blazer athletics will be: www.vstateblazers.com.

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On Saturday, Valdosta State’s football team will host Meet the Blazers Day. At 10:30 a.m., the Blazers will hold a free autograph and picture session open to all fans of the Valdosta State football program. Free t-shirts, sodas, hot dogs, team photos and posters commemorating Blazer football’s Silver Anniversary will be available during the autograph session.

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