The Dixie State College volleyball team came home from Alaska with two wins and two losses, but it has found talent that could give the team a successful year.
Head coach Robyn Felder said the tournament showed a lot of qualities the Red Storm has as a team.
“I would say (the tournament) was very competitive and it was a great indicator of our strengths and weaknesses,” Felder said. “We showed a lot of heart this weekend, we showed a lot of teamwork and we showed a lot of competitiveness.”
The first game against Alaska Anchorage University resulted in a 1-3 loss with the scores of 26-24, 22-25, 20-25 and 23-25.
Although the team lost, freshman middle blocker Mercedes O’Neal lit up the court with the team high of nine kills and added three block assists. Junior middle blocker Kristin Heywood also added light to the loss with six kills, scoring a .500 hitting average, and four block assists.
Felder said O’Neal gets the team excited in ways others don’t.
“She is a fireball for our team,” Felder said. “When she gets a kill it hypes us up. She does these little dances and she does these little celebrations when she gets pumped up. She’s good at getting the momentum for our team and getting us fired up.”
O’Neal, a general education major from West Jordan, said she would define the tournament as a successful trip.
“It helped show us what we need to work on and overall it was just a good experience,” O’Neal said.
The second game was also a loss to Western New Mexico University with the scores of 18-25, 22-25 and 17-25.
O’Neal again had the team high of nine kills. Junior outside hitter Shelia Uluave followed with eight kills, and both Heywood and junior outside hitter Shannon Young each added five.
The Red Storm were up early in games one and two. They had a lead at 16-8 in the second, but then found that WNMU came back into the game with nine consecutive points and 17 of the last 23 to win the set.
The third set was different, however, when the Mustangs found their groove as the game started. WNMU’s junior outside hitter Angelina Pulu went on a seven-point run with unstoppable serves, which handed DSC the loss.
“I learned, personally, that I can’t get down on myself and I have to play for my team,” O’Neal said. “Teamwise I feel like we all have to lean on each other and we can just go forward and we can’t go down.”
The Red Storm came out in the last game against Adelphi University determined to take the win. And they did in three straight games with the scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 25-21.
The player of the game was Young, who had 15 kills and 12 digs, and five of those put-aways were in the last set.
“Overall I feel like we had a lot of people shine,” O’Neal said. “I would say that Brita did an amazing job with passing and being the libero. And I feel like Shannon did really good on the outside hitting wise.”
Dixie was trailing 13-8 in the fifth set when Young smashed three of the next four points, which started the run to distance the Red Storm from the Panthers.
Along with Young for the motivation of victory, outside hitter Brita Jensen had six kills and 13 digs, O’Neal had eight kills, and junior libero Brittany Kelly had 12 digs, which gave DSC the win.
Dixie State made it to the last game of the tourney and fought for third place against Adelphi University once again.
The match came down to the last seven points in the last set and gave DSC the third place title after the games with the scores of 21-25, 12-25, 27-25, 25-18 and 15-13.
Both Young, who had 15 kills and 12 digs, and Jensen, who led the team with 17 digs, displayed talent that resulted in making a difference in the fifth set.
“Brita played awesome,” Felder said. “Brita played libero for us a lot of the weekend as well as an outside hitter. She’s just a calming, confident presence on the court. She is our captain and the girls look to her for leadership and she is always there making the plays, making the digs—just leading on the court and off the court.”
The last set was a challenge for the Storm, but they pulled away with the final win.
“We were down 5-1 and then again 13-8,” Felder said. “We just battled and scrapped and got the momentum and just ended up winning the game. It was awesome. It showed a lot of heart and they played like a team.”
The Red Storm have their first home game this Thursday against Fresno Pacific University at 6 p.m.
“Fresno is a great team,” Felder said. “They have done really well in their pre-season tournament. They are going to be a really strong team. They have some great hitters and they serve the ball really well. We’re hoping to get better against them. It’s obviously our first home game, so we’re hoping to get a good crowd and we’re hoping to take another step and learn and grow and get better.”