ST. GEORGE – Rebuild or reload? That will be the question this year for the Dixie State volleyball program, which went all the way to the Sweet 16 in the national tournament a year ago.
But gone from last year were all-PacWest performers Nicole Koehler, Kendall Weiland, Maddie Rex and Edithza Urias. Also gone were consistent performers Shelby Sorenson and Kara Cotter. Head coach Robyn Felder believes that this year’s team has the talent to match or exceed last year’s performance if they can play together as a team.
“Getting on the national stage last year certainly helped in recruiting,” said Felder. “We have the pieces, now we have to make sure they work well together. “
In the preseason PacWest poll, Dixie State is picked to finish fourth, behind Cal Baptist, Point Loma and Hawaii Pacific. The Red Storm did garner four first-place votes.
“We have a pretty stacked volleyball conference, both last season and again this coming year,” said PacWest executive Jimmy Knodel. “Dixie will certainly be in the mix again.”
One all-PacWest performer is returning. Senior libero Alex Anderson (541 digs) is one of DSU’s team captains.
“Alex has really stepped up as the vocal leader of this team,” said Felder. “She is a consistent performer in practice and puts herself in great position on every play.”
Fellow team captain Makenzi Bird (142 kills, 54 blocks) and Lindsay Jones (112 kills, 48 blocks) have really solidified their positions in the middle and also bring returning experience. “Both are extremely versatile and are a presence on the court both vocally and physically,” said Felder.
Kailey Avery (358 assists) will start at setter. “Kailey’s setting right now is the best we have seen her,” said Felder. “She is deceptive, physical, and has an extremely fast tempo.”
Brette Anderson and newcomer Delayne Daniel have claimed the starting positions on the outside and rightside. “Both girls have great court vision,” said Felder. “They are ready to step up and pull the load of offense and blocking.”
Last year after winning only two of their first six games, the Red Storm won 20 of its last 25. Dixie avenged two earlier season losses to BYU-Hawaii by beating them in the NCAA tournament before succumbing to Sonoma State in the round of 16.
This year DSU will see the same early brutal schedule as they will hit the road for two invitationals and play teams that were ranked at the end of last year. “We play a tough non-conference schedule,” said Felder. “We have found that to be advantageous to have victories against good region teams when post-season tournament selection begins.”
The Red Storm will have two scrimmages to begin their 2015 campaign. They will play the Dixie State alumni at noon this Saturday. They will face Colorado Mesa on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. Dixie State will open with its first 10 games on the road. The Storm will host Notre Dame de Namur in their first home game on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.
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