When Loyola Marymount women's volleyball Coach Steve Stratos recruited outside hitter Amy Moeller and middle blocker Julie Greer, he expected that they would get considerable playing time.
But Stratos said the players have exceeded his expectations as freshmen.
"You never know about freshmen until you actually see them play for you," Stratos said. "But they're even better than I thought they'd be. We couldn't ask for any more from them."
Greer leads the West Coast Conference in hitting percentage at .346 and is seventh in block average. Moeller ranks among the team leaders in kills, digs and service aces.
The 18-year-old freshmen have helped the Lions to a share of the conference lead with Santa Clara and the University of San Diego. The Lions (9-7, 2-0 in the conference) will visit San Diego at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The 6-foot-1 Greer was a three-time All-Southern Section 4-A Division selection at Anaheim Esperanza High. The 6-foot Moeller was chosen All-Southern Section and Angelus League most valuable player as a senior at Santa Ana Mater Dei.
Both players agree that an integral factor in their development was playing together for the Orange County Volleyball Club. The team won a national club tournament last summer in Davis.
"My high school program was OK but I really learned a lot from playing at the club level," Greer said. "I'd say there's almost no way I'd be here without it because you wouldn't have the experience or the competitiveness you need to succeed."
Said Stratos: "You can't teach winning and they learned how to win playing in that national club tournament last summer. That's something you have to experience and the girls we've brought in know how to win. Sometimes that's half the battle."
Greer said she had been recruited by Stratos since her sophomore season at Esperanza. Greer was unaware that Moeller was planning to attend Loyola until they spoke at a club practice last season.
"We knew we were both being recruited but never talked about who was recruiting who," said Greer, who chose the Lions over conference rivals Pepperdine and the University of San Francisco. "I just came to practice one day and she said, 'I'm going to Loyola,' and I said, 'Oh, really? I've already committed there.' "
Stratos said he started recruiting Moeller shortly before the national signing date in February.
"He started recruiting me about three weeks before I signed here or at least it seemed that way," Moeller said.
Stratos, who had coached at Woodbridge High in Irvine for nine years before becoming coach of the Lions in 1990, said he wasn't interested in Moeller until he saw her play in a club match.
"It all happened very quickly," he said. "We had a lot of outside hitters that we were looking at. I told her that we had three others that we were looking at but I wanted to make the offer available to her. It all happened very quickly but I'm glad it happened."
Stratos said the players blend in well with the rest of the squad.
"Our entire team is very young," he said. "It's like Kiddieland here. We're starting two freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and a senior. We only have two seniors and one junior and the rest are all sophomores and freshmen.
"So we're very young and we feel like they're (Moeller and Greer) only going to get better and both have the work ethic built into them. I don't know if I can imagine how good they can become."
The addition of Moeller and Greer also gives Stratos more options in games.
"We can make changes in a game and that allows you to be successful," Stratos said. "Now we have the ability to use our whole roster, and before that wasn't the case. We have 11 girls and they can all play."
Stratos said Moeller, who was also recruited by Santa Clara, St. Mary's and San Diego before signing with Loyola, helps the Lions with her size.
"She gives us the size that we really haven't had on the side and we've had some good outside hitters here," he said. "But Amy gives you the size that you really need out there at times."
Not to mention her hitting ability.
"She hits the ball harder than anyone I have in the program," Stratos said. "She does an awful lot for us but it's her hitting that stands out. In her first match against Stanford, she hit .571 and you usually expect that against a weak team. But she did it against the No. 2 team in the country."
Neither player expected to start for the Lions as freshmen.
"I knew I would have to work hard . . . and right now I'm working hard and I'm starting," Moeller said.
Said Greer: "I never took it for granted that I'd play because there are a lot of good players who can play my position here."
But from Greer's perspective, the adjustment to playing in college hasn't been as difficult as expected.
"It's been different but I like it better than high school," she said. "I think I've adjusted pretty well to it."
Both players have high hopes for the rest of the season.
"I have a pretty good feeling about the conference and I think we're going to do pretty well with the rest of the teams we play," Moeller said. "Even the older players tell us they see so much potential to win here. We can definitely win the conference."
Said Greer: "The program's definitely building. I feel like the program can only go up. They're getting some of the top recruits in the nation to come here and I'm just looking forward to the next few years here."