Throughout the years, AU volleyball has changed and morphed into what it is today: a powerhouse program that was picked as the favorite in the 2023 Peach Belt Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, which also saw last year’s conference player of the year Jazmyn Wheeler and All-Conference selection Jada Suguturaga named to the preseason team.
Quarles has taken the program to the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five seasons, with the team reaching the Elite Eight in 2021, amassing more than 24 wins in those seasons. The depth of this year’s roster, as well as the height of the team, will loom large on the court.
“This is the first time I’ve had this many players over 6-foot on the roster,” Quarles said. “Between the height and the incredible depth we have on this team, we’re set up to win now.”
In building the program, Quarles has used the foundation laid by previous players with the hopes of having a solid recruiting class. Quarles said she’s been able to do that every year since the Jaguars began their current run.
“We brought in three D-I transfers, three junior college transfers and one freshman. This year is going to be exciting, and it should be no different than previous years; we’re expecting to repeat and exceed our goals.”
There are seven seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and one freshman on the team, bringing plenty of leadership and experience, to Quarles’ liking.
“There’s nothing to compare it to. To have that kind of experience plus the depth that we have at every position … it’s definitely a bonus.”
With the new players, Quarles and her staff have been busy conducting practices while working on team chemistry on and off the court. This year, the staff created a game similar to The Amazing Race around Augusta with points and challenges, as well as questions and answers and detours.
There’s been a lot of conference realignment in D-I and D-II. Quarles and her team know how important the conferences matches are, with each team playing each other three times. After that, the Jaguars work on their strength of schedule with their regional matches, which Quarles admitted might be hard because of the success the program has had over the past few years.
“When you’re successful and you win, you have a target on your back. Not a lot of teams are seeking to play you; we were able to get 29 matches on the schedule this year, which is great. There’s enough opportunities to help ourselves out,” Quarles said. “Every night, you’ve got to come to compete. We cannot take the night off, because no one’s taking a night off against us. Everyone is ready to knock us off. By the time postseason play hits, we will have seen everything and so we’ll be ready for whatever is to come.”
The Jaguars opened the season in the Embry-Riddle Tourney in Daytona, Florida, on Sept. 1-2. They faced Drury University, Embry-Riddle University, No. 20 Wingate and Emmanuel College and went 1-3, beating Drury in the opener. They went undefeated in the Pacer Invitational in Aiken on Sept. 8-9, winning all four games, 3-0. They play host to the PBC/Gulf South Crossover at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Sept. 15-16 before beginning their conference schedule.