ST. GEORGE – Competing in arguably the best conference in Division II volleyball, Dixie State returns an experience-laden squad to make some noise in both conference and national play.
Dixie State return six out of its top seven players from last year’s squad, losing only outside hitter Shannon Young to graduation. Young, who led the Red Storm last year with 278 kills, was part of a team that finished 17-10 last year with a 14-6 record in conference play to finish third.
DSU was invited to the NCAA tournament in 2013, where the Storm were eliminated by the University of California-San Diego..
In 2014, the Pacific West Conference placed four teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason rankings. BYU-Hawaii will begin the season ranked fourth nationally, while Point Loma, Fresno Pacific and California Baptist all received votes. The Seasiders won the Pacific West last year and advanced to the national championship game before losing to Concordia-St. Paul, which won its seventh consecutive national title.
Interestingly, Point Loma finished ahead of BYU-H in the conference balloting. The Sea Lions received five first place votes, narrowly beating out BYU-H as the preseason favorites. Cal-Baptist finished third, followed by Dixie State, Hawaii Pacific and Fresno Pacific in fourth, fifth and sixth.
“Obviously winning the conference is one of our goals,” said Felder. “But in this conference, as evidenced by last season, you can have a great year and obviously not win the conference. So our main focus is not just to win, but to improve with every game and prepare us for post-season play.”
The Red Storm return great offensive firepower. Outside hitter Maddi Rex trailed only Young last year with 271 kills. Right side hitters Kendahl Weiland and Nicole Koehler also return. They recorded 195 and 193 kills, respectively, in 2013. Makenzi Bird, a Snow Canyon alum, recorded 141 kills from her middle blocker/hitter position last year. Shelby Sorenson returns at the setter position. Sorenson led the team with 1028 sets last year.
Defensively, the Red Storm return Alex Anderson at the libero position. Anderson led the team last year with 475 digs and a 4.61 dig average. Rex and Sorenson also recorded 273 and 218 digs, respectively, last season. Koehler, Bird and Weiland also led the team in blocks last year with 84, 73 and 63 for the season.
“We really have everyone back,” said Felder. “We lost one starter (Young), but she was really only a front-line player. The rest of our starters and core reserve players are all back. Combine that with some very athletic newcomers and we are very excited for the upcoming season.”
The Red Storm begin the season with two tournaments on the road. They will head to Seattle for the Seattle Pacific Tourney, where they will play four matches in two days this Friday and Saturday. The following weekend, they will participate in the PacWest/GNAC Crossover tournament in Riverside, Calif. They will play four matches in three days, including a Saturday night game against 12th-ranked Western Washington.
“We always want to play against better competition,” said Koehler. “We will be able to gauge ourselves and we thrive on competition. These early games will show us where we need to improve before conference play.”
Anderson said the tourneys will help get the squad ready for the season.
“We trained very hard during the off-season,” said Anderson. “We knew we had these pre-conference tournaments against other conferences. Physically we came back already in shape. I think we will be ready to compete at a higher level immediately.”
The Red Storm begin conference play with their first home game of the season on Sept. 19 against Holy Names University.
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