Marissa Lisenbee Ready to Begin UT Career Following Junior Olympic Championship

The University of Tampa volleyball team is coming off one of its best seasons in program history. The Spartans went 33-2 overall en route to reaching the NCAA Division II Championship tournament for the third time in as many years. But along with the success comes the inevitability that top players will graduate and move on. This past season in particular, the Spartans lost Eva Dupay, Camille Hanks and Julie Howlett—who each played tremendous roles in the Spartans’ postseason run.

Now with nine new players, eight of which are freshman, joining the Spartans for the 2012 season, it’d be easy to designate the upcoming campaign as a rebuilding year. But don’t bother telling that to Marissa Lisenbee, one of those eight incoming freshmen. An accomplished winner for more or less her entire competitive volleyball career, Lisenbee expects the success to continue into her first year at UT.

“I think we’re going to be really competitive from the start,” she said. “We have two really great seniors in Jessica Yingling and [Danielle Selkridge] who have just been competitive the entire time they’ve been there and I know all the other girls are ready to win a national championship. All of us want to come in and work really hard. So I don’t think it’s going to be a rebuilding year. I think we’re going to be really strong coming in.”

The 18-year-old right-side hitter was born in Seminole, Fla., and attended Seminole High School where she started all four years for the Warhawks. In her four year career there, Lisenbee compiled a plethora of honors and achievements. Most notably she was named team MVP and selected to play in the Pinellas County Senior All-Star game in 2011, was a four-time All-PCAC (Pinellas County Athletic Conference) selection and earned four years worth of both all-county and all-county academic honors.

Her most recent addition to an already impressive resume, Lisenbee helped the Tampa Bay 18 Black—a Tampa Bay Juniors club team—win the Junior Olympic National Championship in the 18 open division last week. And that is what she considers her biggest accomplishment to date.

“So far, winning the national championship this past weekend,” Lisenbee said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better to end my season and high school career.”

With the departure of Eva Dupay, who was second on the team in kills last season as the starting right-side hitter, Lisenbee is not only expected to play a large role in the Spartans’ success for 2012; she could potentially find herself as a starter from day one.

 “I’m really excited,” she said regarding the potential opportunity to be a starter as a freshman. “I’m going to have to work my butt off to keep my starting spot, if he (Head Coach Chris Catanach) gives me one. I know there’s going to be a lot of competition because there’s lot of people that are playing my position and upper classmen who [have their spot] too. I’m going to work as hard as I can to keep it.”

Lisenbee understands the magnitude of the void left by a player of Dupay’s caliber, but believes she can provide her new team with some of the same qualities her predecessor did in years past.

“I think I can do the same things that she’s done for the team, like screen and strong block and attack from the right side or wherever coach decides to play me.”

Coach Catanach doesn’t disagree. Heading into his 29th season helming the UT volleyball program, Catanach commented on the addition of Lisenbee to his team.

“Marissa could impact us immediately.  Her size, athleticism and volleyball IQ are three of the qualities that make her an outstanding new player for our program,” he stated. “We expect Marissa to play on the right pin, providing us with a big block and powerful attack.”

There is plenty of talent surrounding Lisenbee on the volleyball team. Selkridge and Yingling—who were first and third in kills on the team a season ago, respectively—will be back for their senior seasons. Junior Holly Reshke joins them, along with promising sophomores Kahley Patrick and Meagan Burke. But the team will still need time to gel and come together, considering the addition of nine new players. Lisenbee is confident that her new teammates have the ability to make it work.

“I think we’re going to do really well this year. We have so many people that are going to be good. There’s always a lot to work on bringing in nine new players, so we’re going to have to work our butts off to become a team with the new players and make that bond so that we all play together as a team.”

A rebuilding season? Maybe not so much. Certainly no stranger to winning, Lisenbee has exactly that on her mind when considering her ultimate goal playing for UT. 

“Hopefully getting a ring all four years.”

Written by Daniel Feingold

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