Youth and inexperience has plagued this year’s Western Carolina volleyball team. Thus far in the season, the Catamounts are 5 and16 overall and 1 and 4 in the Southern Conference. Leadership is something that the young Cats look for in their seniors. Senior Krista Neumann is one of four seniors on the Catamounts, and has earned her position as a leader for the volleyball team. “Being a senior on such a young team is always tough. However, I have high expectations for us regardless of how much youth is on the court. I know that the four seniors on this team can instill a great attitude, work ethic, and a desire to win in the younger players,” stated Neumann. Neumann has been impressive in her two seasons in Cullowhee. In the 2005 season, Neumann compiled four double-double performances as well as leading the team in service aces with 32. Neumann also finished third on the team in total blocks with 51. This season, Neumann has used her senior leadership in various matches this season, especially at times when the Catamounts need her the most. In her first action of the season in the Big Orange Bash, Neumann compiled 14 digs in the victory over the UNC-Charlotte 49ers. Neumann, who transferred to Western in the 2005 season from the University of Tennessee-Martin, has had to be the newcomer on a team twice in her career. She believes that the dynamics and maturity are what can help make a young and new team successful. “Because I have dealt with being on a new team twice now, I have come to realize a lot of things about team dynamics and growth – on and off the court. I feel that I have a very close relationship with the freshman, and I hope that they are learning when I share experiences I have been through,” said the Downers Grove, Ill. native. Neumann attended Downers Grove High School in Illinois and was a member of the 2002 State Championship team. She remembers what it was like when she was a freshman on the University of Tennessee-Martin’s team and walking into the locker room being completely intimidated by a senior. “Like our freshman this year, I came into the University of Tennessee-Martin with a large class of eight. I was doing exactly what some of the freshman are doing here, looking for advice to the seniors and older teammates. I made a great friend in one of the seniors and she and I still talk to her today. I still remember being completely intimidated by her when I first met her. I learned so many things when I was a freshman and I think the things I learned have helped me today,” stated Neumann. Winning the conference is the goal of every volleyball player, and despite their 1 and 4 record in the SoCon, Neumann believes that the win against Georgia Southern proves that the Catamounts are strong contenders in the conference. Against Georgia Southern, Neumann and fellow senior Heather Koontz compiled a total of eight kills apiece in the victory over the Eagles. “We are continuing to grow as a team each day. I feel that we are beginning to gain the confidence needed to dominate other teams and our strong mental toughness, physical ability, and fitness level showed in the five-game win over the Eagles. I personally think it will continue to improve as the season progresses.” In order for the Catamounts to improve their conference record and remain contenders, Neumann feels as though the four seniors need to step up and give 100 percent in every game. “We want to show the rest of the team that it takes a lot of heart to win championships. We all need to look out for each other and support one another whenever mistakes are made. Sometimes, I act really crazy and hyper on the court just to pick my teammates up and lift their spirits,” Neumann joked. Throughout this entire season, the youthful Cats have been looking to their four seniors for guidance on and off the court. Neumann has offered plenty of advice to the freshman and sophomores on the team. However, the most important thing she tells them is that they need to learn from their mistakes. Her advice to the team applies to both on the court and to life in general. “Considering that I have been through many ups and downs in my volleyball career, I really want to the younger players to know that everything happens for a reason. You have to find the positive in bad situations and learn from mistakes. If they can do that, they will go far and be a lot happier in life,” said Neumann. The Catamount volleyball team is young, and the advice given by Neumann to the rest of the talent on the team, hopefully can help this young team blossom into champions.