Defensive specialist Courtney Morehead had just commented on how well the volleyball team is adapting to a new coaching staff and how smooth the transition has been.
Seated beside her, Morehead’s new coach Matt Buttermore turned to her and said, “Perfect.”
That drew laughs during UNO’s media day Thursday at Baxter Arena.
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Buttermore was hired in March after Rose Shires retired after 29 years as Mav coach. Buttermore previously coached seven seasons at Hastings College, leading the Broncos to their first NAIA volleyball title in 2016.
“All positive days in the gym so far. I’m happy with the progress,” Buttermore said of preseason practices. “We’re happy where we’re at.”
Buttermore inherits a team that went 17-12 and finished third in the Summit League. The Mavericks bring back five starters, including their top four hitters, as they look for their first NCAA Division I tournament bid.
“Team chemistry is the most important thing,” said Morehead, the team’s lone senior. “Even though we might have a new leader, we still have the same ability to get there.”
Sadie Limback, Isabella Sade, Anna Blaschko and Claire Leonard also return — all four averaged at least 2.38 kills per set a year ago. Junior Claire Mountjoy is a two-year starter at libero.
The Mavs have their scrimmage Aug. 22 before playing three matches in the Omaha Challenge Aug. 30 and 31.
UNO also faces Creighton Sept. 13. Buttermore said he hopes the Mavs will be able to play either CU or Nebraska every year.
Bob Warming was the new coach at UNO last fall. Now more familiar with the program, Warming begins this season with a great deal of optimism.
“The team is just more mature,” Warming said. “Yesterday’s practice might have been the very best first practice I’ve had since 1976. So I’m fired up about it.”
Warming said last year “was a little bit of a scramble” as the Mavs got off to a slow start. They finished 7-8-1 but return nine starters.
Among them are junior Diego Gutierrez, who led the team in points (21), goals (seven) and assists (seven); Ugo Tritz, who was 7-4-1 in goal; and midfielder Cole Nelson, who tore his ACL three games into last season.
“I’m really excited to get back on the field,” Nelson said.
UNO hosts UCLA in an exhibition Aug. 24 before opening its season Aug. 30 at Cal.
UNO played its best soccer at the end of last season, going 5-2-1 in its last eight matches to reach the Summit League tourney final.
“We’re excited to build off what we did last fall. Hopefully get back to the conference championship,” said Abby Meader, one of six seniors on the team.
The Mavs return seven starters, including top scorer Bailey Cascio and keeper Erin Bunker.
“With all the returners, we can hit the ground running,” added senior defender Taylor Gelling, who was on last year’s all-tournament team.
UNO plays its second exhibition Friday at Kansas. The Mavs lost 4-0 at Nebraska last week. They open the regular Aug. 23, hosting Illinois State.