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MACOMB, Ill. — The Fighting Leatherneck volleyball team took the court together for the first time this season Tuesday morning (Aug. 8). The day started early with a practice at 8:30 a.m. and continued throughout the day with an afternoon and an evening session. Head coach Kelly Richardson was satisfied with what she saw after the first session. “We had a really good session this morning. The girls came in with a lot of energy. We saw a lot of improvement already from the beginning of practice to the end, so we are really excited about this group,” said Richardson. The Purple and Gold return 10 players from the 2016 campaign. The team also welcomes back the top-7 leaders in kills from 2016, headlined by Shalyn Greenhaw with 291, followed by Melanie Patenaude (195), Lexi Kolschefski (118), Riley Schumacher (115), Claire Grove (112), Emilee Dechant (87) and Shiah Sanders (86). Although losing its leader in assists, the Leatherneck roster will feature Hannah Walker and Makenzie Bouse who recorded 217 and 130, respectively, good for second and third best on the team. The leadership and excitement displayed from the returners gave Richardson confidence in the culture of the program. “The thing that got me most excited was that they were being good teammates. We saw lots of encouragement between drills and that is the kind of culture that we are trying to build here,” said Richardson. “They did a really great job this first session.” Five newcomers are featured in this year’s roster with four being freshman (Jovana Bulatovic, Cassie Hunt, Abby Knoop, Emma Norris), and the junior Jaime Johnson is the lone transfer. Richardson is looking for application and progression of skills in the first week of practice and is intrigued by the team’s hard work displayed throughout the first meeting. “It is going to be fun to watch them enjoy their time on the court together,” said Richardson. “It is important to see what they are learning in the morning being applied in the afternoon and I think that progression is going to look great as the week goes on.” Western will open up its 2017 season Aug. 25 against Manhattan at 7 p.m. in Western Hall and is a part of the 2017 Hampton Inn Leatherneck Invitational (Aug. 25-26), which also features Chicago State and Evansville.