DeLong eager to return to 2007 form

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Karleigh DeLong hopes her senior volleyball season is as satisfying as her junior campaign was frustrating.

DeLong, an outside hitter for Southeast Missouri State, is counting on it.

"I'm just trying to stay healthy and make sure I have a great senior year," DeLong said. "I'm feeling great."

That wasn't the case last year when DeLong was limited to 14 matches due to injury.

DeLong was set back by a concussion and by reinjuring the right foot she originally hurt during the spring.

"It was very frustrating," DeLong said.

Especially since the Californian was coming off a big sophomore year that stamped her as one of the Ohio Valley Conference's premier hitters.

DeLong, after a solid freshman season, broke out in 2007 by ranking seventh in the OVC in kills and fourth in points.

DeLong's 433 kills, 513.5 points and 31 aces led the squad and helped her earn first-team all-OVC honors and honorable mention on the all-region team.

DeLong hoped to pick up where she left off but never got the chance last year, although she still ranked second on the Redhawks in kills per game.

"It's a shame Karleigh got hurt because she had such a good [sophomore] season," Southeast coach Renata Heard said. "But she looks good, stronger than I've seen her, and smarter.

"It doesn't look like she's missed a step."

That's a welcome sight for the Redhawks, who are looking to bounce back from last year's 13-14 season that saw them finish fifth in the OVC at 11-7.

"Karleigh is such a big part of our team, and it hurt us last year that she wasn't healthy," senior libero Molly Davis said. "She looks great now."

A healthy DeLong, coupled with a host of other experienced players, could go a long way toward helping the Redhawks get back to the top of the OVC.

With DeLong leading the way, the 2007 Redhawks claimed a share of the program's first OVC regular-season title since 2000 and won 20 matches for the first time since 2002.

"We're expecting a lot out of ourselves and we have the talent to reach all our goals," said DeLong, who is from Corona in Southern California. "We want it all this year -- the [OVC] regular-season championship, host the [OVC] tournament, win the tournament and get to the NCAAs.

"It's very realistic. I'll be very disappointed if we don't."

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