When the Sara Noe Era ended Dec. 5, the search was on to replace the most prolific setter in Western volleyball history.
Sophomore Erica Ringger appeared poised to fill the void Noe left, until coach Travis Hudson received a Texas-sized gift.
Last Thursday, Hudson got word the University of Texas had granted freshman setter Caron Blotch a release from her volleyball scholarship. By Friday, Blotch was enrolled at Western.
And the setter sweepstakes began.
“It came to our understanding that Caron was unhappy at Texas, although she had a tremendous freshman year there,” Hudson said. “She was looking for a place to go, and once her release arrived here at Western, certainly, we made contact with her.”
The former Longhorn cited differences with teammates and the university not offering her intended major as reasons for leaving the Lone Star State.
“I guess my heart was never really in it down there,” Blotch said.
Blotch, the Oct. 10 Big 12 Conference Player of the Week, landed on the Hill due in large part to an old high school teammate, Western’s freshman outside hitter Jessie Wagner.
Blotch and Wagner combined to lead Franklin Community High School to the Indiana Class 4-A state championship game their senior season. The 5-foot-10 setter is a two-time club All-American as well as being named the 2001 Indianapolis Star Player of the Year in Indiana.
At Texas, Blotch racked up 1,201 assists and 151 digs in 96 games. Blotch recorded Noe-like numbers against Texas A&M, tallying 51 assists and 10 digs.
Blotch was a key member of the Longhorn squad that won 22 matches and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by Arizona.
Halfway through the season, Blotch expressed discontent with her situation at Texas. That’s when Wagner began her campaign to reunite with her former teammate and bring Blotch to Western.
Last season, the Lady Toppers used a strong sense of family to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. But the newest addition to the volleyball sisterhood may stir the happy waters.
By phone last night, Ringger admitted being unhappy with the new addition, but declined further comment.
Ringger recorded 85 assists in 13 games last season, mostly in the late stages of Western victories.
Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]