Jessica Casey knows there's going to be some trying moments.
The introduction of nine new players, eight of them freshmen, to any program is going to come with growing pains.
But if the Merced College volleyball coach had to have limited returning experience after the departure of a large sophomore class, having setter Serryna Gonzalez back is a good way to start.
The Lady Devil court general was a fixture in MC's 12-10 2012 season. Now she, along with fellow returners Jenna Fournier and Tiara Nolen, will be leaned upon heavily in the early going as Casey's freshmen get acquainted with the college game.
"It's always nice to have your setter back," Casey said. "They're really the one that runs the show on the court, so even if everyone else around them is inexperienced, Serryna can be that calming presence."
Casey called her incoming class talented, but raw.
Maggie Jordan (Stone Ridge Christian) and Jalynn Harrison (Atwater) will offer MC some size in the middle, while Tekerra Borden (Merced) provides athleticism from the outside.
Cal State Stanislaus transfer and former Pitman setter Julia Brewer should give the Lady Devils added experience and depth.
"I like what we have, but the nonconference schedule is going to tell us a lot," Casey said. "We don't have great size, but we're not small. There's a lot of athleticism.
"The potential is there, we just have to see who will be willing to put in the hard work."
The Lady Devils open the season at home against Siskiyous on Aug. 30.
Even with all the new faces, Gonzalez believes the group may click sooner than later.
"Just about everyone was in the gym all summer," Gonzalez said. "That's big for me as a setter, because I need to build that chemistry with my hitters and learn what they like and what they don't.
"College is a completely different game, but I think this is a group of quick learners.
"If this team puts in the work and has the dedication, we could be good."
UC Merced volleyball
Allen McCreary enters the season with a veteran roster for the first time in his brief tenure as UC Merced women's volleyball coach.
After adding eight new faces in his first full recruiting class last year, McCreary just fine-tuned things this season. Merced College transfer Kuuipolani Braceros was his big addition, providing the Golden Bobcats size and athleticism.
She joins what looks like a plethora of offensive options for sophomore setter Genna Garrett.
Senior Patricia Schellentrager and Jade Garrett will hope to provide a more consistent middle while Valeria Martinez, Vickie Rouse, McKenzie Willett and Braceros bomb away from the outside.
McCreary also gets back senior outside hitter Alexandria Curtis, who missed last season with an injury.
The team is picked to finish fifth in the California Pacific Conference, according to the NAIA preseason poll.
The Bobcats will open the season by hosting the UC Merced Holiday Inn Express Volleyball Invitational on Aug. 30 and 31.