#1 Nationally, Blocking Leads 13th Ranked Eagles to 12th Straight Victory


Photo by Jeff Barrett

By Calvin Jensen

The 13th ranked Utah State Eastern women’s volleyball team wrapped up their preseason competition following 23 games in six different states. A slow start was short lived for the Lady Eagles as they step into conference play on a 12-game winning streak, sweeping three straight collegiate tournaments against multiple ranked opponents.

Over the weekend, USU Eastern traveled to Las Vegas, Nev. to participate in the Coyote Classic hosted by the College of Southern Nevada.

On Friday, in their first matchup of the tournament, Eastern faced Jefferson College out of Hillsboro, Missouri who received votes in the latest NJCAA national rankings. The Lady Eagles were stunned by the Vikings in the first set, but would take the momentum in a second set comeback and defeat Jefferson 3-1 with set scores of 17-25, 26-24, 25-13 and 25-16.

Kelsy Stanger stepped up big for the Eagles with 11 kills in the game. Sophomore middle blockers Rachel West and Casidy Fried continue to dominate on both offense and defense with 10 kills apiece and 18 blocks collectively. Sophomore setter Camber Dodson had a season high 38 assists and sophomore libero Paige Shumway had 13 digs defensively.

The Lady Eagles would take their momentum into their next matchup against Mesa Community College, sweeping the Thunderbirds 3-0 with set scores of 25-17, 25-21 and 25-17.

It was a group effort on the offensive attack as freshmen Lauren Hamilton had seven kills and Kelsy Stanger had six. Fried had eight kills in the game and sophomore Ajah Rajvong and West had seven kills apiece. Dodson racked up another 36 sets and Shumway shut down Mesa’s momentum with 11 digs.

Saturday would be a big test for Utah State Eastern as the team faced two nationally-ranked opponents coming in just below the Lady Eagles. For the second time this season, the Lady Eagles would face No. 14 Eastern Arizona (EAC), who they swept just a few weeks prior.

Although unable to get the sweep, USU Eastern put on another impressive performance and defeated the 14th ranked Gila Monsters 3-1 with set scores of 25-21, 17-25, 25-17 and 25-14.

Lauren Hamilton led offensively with 11 kills with Ajah Rajvong close behind with 10 and five blocks. Dodson ran the offense with 36 assists and Paige Shumway shut down EAC’s momentum with 17 kills. Agata Makowska added 13 digs, protecting the court.

In their final matchup of the preseason, the Lady Eagles faced No. 16 Arizona Western and would battle through a third set lull to come away with their 12th straight victory. Utah State Eastern defeated the Matadors 3-1 with set scores of 25-15, 25-21, 18-25 and 25-18.

Casidy Fried shined in her best performance of the season with 14 kills, 12 blocks and a .364 hitting percentage. Camber Dodson had a career high six blocks and 29 assists offensively. Shumway continues to be a digging machine with 16 during the match.

The Lady Eagles are currently #1 in the nation for total blocks, second in the national in block assists and fifth in the nation for assists.

USU Eastern (16-5) will begin SWAC play at home facing the Spartans of Colorado Northwestern Community College (0-13,) on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. inside the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center.

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