Dixie State spikers lack experience, but still picked 3rd in PWC

File photo of Dixie State University vs. Point Loma University, Volleyball,St. George, Utah, Nov. 19, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Gone are four seniors from last year’s Dixie State volleyball team that finished 17-11 overall and third in the Pacific West Conference. Also leaving was starter Taylor Duryea, who transferred to future RMAC opponent Metro State.

“We lost some good seniors,” said Dixie State head coach Robyn Felder. “But we had a lot of talent sitting behind them. They are anxious to show they should be on the court. We also have one of the more talented freshmen classes we have had here. “

Last year’s finish was lower than many thought, but Felder was quick to emphasize the team’s success.

“We finished third in a very tough conference,” she said. “With our most recent success, that might have been disappointing to some. But we played tough non-conference opponents and the PacWest has five or six schools that are always competing for the conference championship.”

Coach Robyn Felder

The schedule for this year’s team is even more brutal than last year. The Blazers will open the first two weekends with tournaments on the road. They will play a total of eight matches in those two tournaments. They will head to Seaside, Calif., on Sept. 1 for the Otter Classic at CSU-Monterey Bay. Then they will head even further northwest to Ellensburg, Wash., for the West Region Showcase beginning Sept. 7.

The home opener will not be until the following Saturday when the Blazers will host conference rival Cal Baptist at the Student Activities Center.

The Trailblazers were picked to finish in the same spot (third) they ended last year in the PacWest preseason poll. The two teams that finished in front of them last year, Concordia and Cal Baptist, were picked first and second.

Dixie State has the most returning experience at the libero position. Sidney Brandon (450 digs, 19 service aces, 55 assists) was named as preseason All PacWest at the position. Jaclyn Condie (159 D, 9 SA, 21 A) split time with Brandon at the spot last year.

Dixie State’s Sidney Brandon (7),  file photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“The two had different skill sets,” said Felder. “One was better at defending kills while the other was better at getting tips. So the start depended on whom we played. I have confidence in both of them as defensive specialists.”

At the setter position, freshman Jordyn Nelson will likely get the early nod.

“She has great hands,” Felder said. “And she has picked up our offensive schemes quickly.”

Returners Kara Moore and Alexa Goulding will also see time at the setter position.

On the right side, Brette Barney (formerly Anderson) returns as the starter (115 kills, 44 blocks) . Also in the rotation will be Shannon Sorenson (40 K, 23 Bl) and Savannah Ipsen.

The middle will have Kayla Chapman (92 K, 51 Bl) and Lauren Gammell (13 K, 7 Bl) returning.

“Gammell gives us additional options in the middle because she is a strong left-handed attacker,” Felder said.

Taylor Tibbetts and Ashtyn Lunt will also see time in the middle.

On the outside, freshmen Sydney Johnson and Kaycee Adams will be in the rotation early. Hannah Doonan, Amanda Schultz and Jaydra Thurber will also see time on the outside.

The Trailblazers’ first match of the year will be against Metro State and former Dixie State player Duryea on Sept. 1 at 9 a.m. PST.

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