Photo by Jeff Barrett
By Calvin Jensen
It was a packed and rowdy crowd inside the BDAC Friday night as the 4th ranked USU Eastern women’s volleyball team concluded their regular season with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, and 25-9) sweep of Colorado Northwestern Community College. Earning their 22nd win on the season, the Lady Eagles secured second place in conference standings and a first round bye in the upcoming Region 18 Scenic West Athletic Conference Tournament.
It was an emotional start to the evening as the USU Eastern coaching staff recognized the team’s sophomores who have spent two seasons with the program. While the second year players all had an amazing game against the Spartans, it was the freshman class who dominated the offense as middle blocker Rachel West entertained the home crowd, chalking up nine kills, nine blocks and a remarkable .600 hitting percentage. Freshman middle blocker Lindsey Otero also dominated at the net, adding seven kills and one block with a near flawless night hitting at .875.
Both setters made easy work for their hitters as freshman Camber Dodson recorded 16 assists on the night followed closely by sophomore Avery Best, who added 15 of her own. Emma Ricks continues to be a digging machine as she protected the home court with 23 digs.
West had this to say about the continued success of the squad, “As a team, we have been pushing each other to get better every practice. We’ve really focused on staying disciplined, doing our job and earning our points. If we continue to remain focused, limit our errors and play as a team, we will be well prepared for our conference tournament next week.”
It was a very fitting game-ending play inside the BDAC as sophomore setter Best placed a perfect set for right side hitter Kahea Nihipali, who terminated the ball in what would be their last game played on their home floor.
Sophomore standouts Emma Ricks, Sunny Perry, Alyssa Simmons and Kennedy Poulton will all take rare advantage of an additional year of eligibility as they continue their student athlete careers at USU Eastern in fall 2021.
When asked about her relationship with her sophomores, head coach Danielle Jensen expressed a deep love for each of them. “These girls are very much a part of our family and each year it is so difficult to say goodbye and watch them move on to the next chapters in their life,” said Jensen. “We have an unbelievable bond as a team this year and that has been evident on the court. A big part of that bond is because of our sophomores and their leadership and examples. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in life and I cannot be more excited to have four of them return back next year to continue to lead this program in an upward direction.”
No. 4 USU Eastern (22-4, 8-2) will now prepare for the Scenic West Athletic Conference Region 18 Tournament, which will take place at the Sevier Valley Center April 2-3 in Richfield, Utah. Details about the tournament will be announced once the bracket has been determined.