This is the second year for Western Carolina Volleyball Coach Stephanie Dragan. Last season, she coached the Catamounts to an overall record of 9&25 and an eighth place finish in the Southern Conference.This year, Dragan has worked to improve the Catamounts by recruiting seven freshmen. She is looking for the leadership from her four seniors and one junior to guide these freshmen and bring the Catamount volleyball team to prominence.”We have an incredible freshmen class. The freshmen are doing a good job, and I hope they will continue to progress. The good thing is that they continue to get better after every weekend. Being exposed to different teams is helping them develop skills needed to help us beat SoCon teams. I expect a lot of this freshmen class, they can do a lot of great things for us this season,” said Dragan.So far this season, the Catamount Volleyball team is 1&7. They have played teams such as South Carolina, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, and Clemson. Their lone victory came against the UNC-Charlotte 49ers, where they battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win the game in 5.Dragan said it was the fact that the Catamounts believed in themselves, and that’s what pushed them to victory. “Being down 0-2 to any team is a hard deficit to battle out of. I think the ladies now have a better understanding of the level of effort that is needed to produce a victory for the Cats,” stated Dragan.Their very first tournament of the season was the Magnolia Invitational at Oxford, Mississippi. After a winless performance, the Cats left Oxford with a 0&4 overall record to kick off their season. The Cats’ win against Charlotte came at the Big Orange Bash Invitational at Clemson, South Carolina.”We had a much better showing at the Big Orange Bash then the Magnolia Invitational at Ole Miss. Our team got a taste of what it takes to pull together for a win,” Dragan explained.Coach Dragan schedules tough preseason schedules on purpose. She believes that the exposure of teams like Tennessee State and South Carolina will help them succeed in the Southern Conference as well as the NCAA Tournament.Despite being voted to finish 10th in the conference this season, Dragan has high hopes for Western in the Southern Conference. The defending conference champion the College of Charleston was voted as the favorite to win the conference, receiving eight out of 11 possible votes. Furman finished second in the voting, getting two first place votes, and Appalachian State was predicted to finish third.”I think we have what it takes to win the Southern Conference this year. Being voted in the preseason polls proves that the other SoCon schools coaching staff have no belief in my recruiting, or my team’s ability to improve over the spring. Teams will take us lightly, and are not aware that we are much improved from last year. In a way, I am glad they will not take us seriously because I believe that we will catch a lot of teams with their guard down,” stated Dragan.Before arriving in Cullowhee in 2005, Dragan was the head coach of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. She finished with a total record of 159&107, and five consecutive 20-plus win seasons. She compiled a 28-win season in her final season at Centre College. She graduated from Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1994 and was the star setter for the Shawnee State Bears Volleyball program.Since coming to Western, Dragan has expected her team to be ready to play at the program’s highest level.”We work hard to physically develop them in the weight room, to take care of them in the training room, and on the court to prepare them technically and tactically to defeat an opponent. I expect for my team to give their maximum effort every day. I hold myself to these exact same standards,” stated Coach Dragan.At this point in the season, Coach Dragan has seen a lot of improvement coming from her team. However, she believes that there are some weaknesses that the team must overcome in order to help them perform better.”Our big strength is our defense; the way we play defense has been big for us all year long. Our weakness, however, is our inconsistent play and the emotional rollercoaster that we ride during a match.”Coach Dragan believes that believing in themselves and their teammates will help the Catamount volleyball team overcome their weaknesses.”The girls have to get over their last mistake, toughen up, and play the next play. Once we stop dwelling on our mistakes and get over the fear of making a mistake. If we can do that, then I think we will be fine.”Hard work and strong determination are what the Cats are going to need in order to succeed in the Southern Conference.”If anyone can win the conference, we can. We have the talent to do so; the talent just needs to believe in themselves and each other. They will have to step outside of their comfort levels and challenge each other in practice.”The leadership of seniors Heather Koontz, Meghan Boyle, Kate Willard, and Krista Neumann, along with the tandem of freshman on the volleyball team, the Catamount Volleyball team has the potential to be contenders in the Southern Conference this season.”Our weaknesses are all mental, and if we can overcome those obstacles, I think that this volleyball team can do some damage this year,” stated Dragan.