ST. GEORGE – The champs are back.
The Dixie State volleyball team will defend its PacWest Conference title this year. After starting the year 3-7 in 2015, the Trailblazers ended the season winning 16 of their final 19 matches and winning the PacWest Conference outright.
DSU returns five of its top seven players from last year. Gone are all-conference performers Mackenzie Bird-Murphy (middle blocker) and Alex Anderson (libero). “We only lost two players,” said DSU head coach Robyn Felder. “But those two were not only talented, but were also our team leaders. They were instrumental in our success last year.”
Returning from last year’s squad are all-conference performers Lindsay Garrett (senior middle blocker), Delayne Daniel (senior outside hitter) and Brette Anderson (junior right side). Garrett, who married former DSU basketball player Louis Garrett in the offseason, had 230 kills last year with a .263 attack percentage. Garrett led the team with 105 blocks last year. Anderson had 217 kills last year with a .253 attack percentage. Daniel led the team in points (330) and kills (298). Daniel was selected as a preseason PacWest selection this year. “Daniel plays fierce,” said Felder. “Few can match her intensity.”
Also returning are Kailey Frei (senior setter) and Taylor Duryea (sophomore outside hitter). Frei was second in the conference last year in assists (1120) and was chosen as a preseason PacWest selection this year. Frei also stands at 5-foot-11 and contributed greatly defensively with 67 blocks and 240 digs. Duryea led the team during conference play in kills and kills per set. She also led the team with 30 service aces last year.
Junior Jaclyn Condie and sophomore Sidney Brandon are expected to replace Alex Anderson at the libero spot. Initially it will be Condie as Brandon is out with injury. But expect both to see action as the season progresses.
“Sidney (Brandon) plays junk better,” said Felder. “So, against teams that like to do a lot of tips, she will play more. Jaclyn (Condie) is excellent at digs. So against teams that like to swing hot and heavy, she will get the nod. I am comfortable with either one of them at that spot.”
Other players expected to see significant time this year are setters Megan Huddleston (senior) and Kara Moore (redshirt freshman), middle blockers Malary Marshall (junior) and Kayla Chapman (sophomore), and true freshman Lauren Gammell at right side.
Despite winning the conference last year and returning the bulk of that championship squad, Dixie State was picked to finish second in the PacWest to Cal Baptist.
“I am not unhappy with the preseason poll,” said Felder. “Cal Baptist was picked to win it last year as well. They finished second and return six of their top seven players. I don’t mind the bulls eye target being on their backs instead of ours.”
The team will be captained by Daniel, Garrett, Frei and Huddleston. “I was a little concerned about how the leadership mantle would pass this season,” said Felder. “We are pleasantly surprised with Daniel. She was very quiet last year. This year she is more vocal and she is filling that leadership void with the others quite well.”
Unlike years past, when the team would spend the first few weeks on the road against top teams, DSU will host its own tournament to begin this season. “We have some talented teams coming,” said Felder. “It is not only nice for our players to get to sleep in their own beds, but it will be nice for our fans to get to see us before our conference schedule begins.”
Felder is convinced that this team will build on last year’s success. “Other teams in our conference have great individual players,” said Felder. “We have a great team. I will take a great team over a team of great players every time.”
The Dixie State/Crystal Inn Invitational kicks off this Friday. Northwest Nazarene University will take on Cal State Monterey Bay at 9:30 a.m. Dixie State will follow with a noon match against Black Hills State.
The Trailblazers will play again at 7 p.m. against Northwest Nazarene. They will finish the tournament on Saturday with a noon matchup against CSU-Monterey Bay.
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