By Calvin Jensen
The 6th ranked USU Eastern women’s volleyball team (10-2, 0-0 SWAC) traveled to Prescott, Arizona to compete in their third tournament in a row of non-conference play. Facing an onslaught of tough competition, including No. 2 Odessa College, the Lady Eagles once again proved their standing as a national contender.
In their first matchup of the Dalton Overstreet Invitational, USU Eastern took on Eastern Arizona College. After an intimidating first set score of 25-10, the Lady Eagles found themselves complacent in the second set, giving up the set to the Gila Monsters 27-25. Regaining focus and eliminating errors, the Lady Eagles defeated Eastern Arizona in the following two sets, 25-21 and 25-15. (Stat Leaders: OPP Sunny Perry 14 Kills and 4 Blocks, S Camber Dodson 33 Assists, and L Emma Ricks 17 Digs)
When asked about the momentum change in their favor, sophomore libero Emma Ricks had this to say, “A big part of the win against Eastern Arizona was working together with Coach Jensen to make adjustments. Our job as a team is to work hard and be consistent. When we do that, we outwork the competition and get the win.”
Later that afternoon, in the much anticipated matchup against 2nd ranked Odessa, the Lady Eagles once again found themselves in the national spotlight, putting on a display unlike any other. In the first game ever between the two programs, the Lady Eagles couldn’t organize their offense, struggling with their passing game and executing at the net.
After a 25-18 loss in the first set, the Lady Eagles took too long to initiate their rhythm and found themselves down 0-2 against Odessa, 25-23. There was a visible change going into the third set after a team building huddle. The Lady Eagles made the necessary adjustments, dominating the fourth set and keeping their hopes of an upset alive, 25-18.
Maintaining the momentum would be critical for the Lady Eagles to push a fifth set and they did just that as they never released the pressure against the Wranglers, dominating the fourth set 25-16. Both teams refused to hand over an easy defeat in the fifth set as a back-and-forth scoring battle ensued. With the game tied 13-13, a kill by Sunny Perry and an error by the Wranglers gave the Lady Eagles an upset unlike any other with a 3-2 thrilling victory over Odessa. (Stat Leaders: OPP Sunny Perry 19 Kills, MB Lindsey Otero 6 Blocks, S Camber Dodson 29 Assists, and L Emma Ricks 23 Digs)
“Even though throughout the first two sets the girls didn’t start off strong, they kept chipping away and got in a rhythm,” said assistant coach Nesreen Iskandrani. “This was a battle for our name and the girls wanted it. Everyone on the team contributed to that win and I am so proud of our Lady Eagles.”
The following day, a tough program in Arizona Western fell to the Lady Eagles. They defeated the Matadors 25-12, 25-19 and 25-22. (Stat Leaders: OH Alyssa Simmons 8 Kills, MB Taylor Bair 4 Blocks, S Avery Best 18 Assists, and L Emma Ricks 20 Digs)
In their final game of the tournament and on their opponents’ home court, USU Eastern competed against host Yavapai College. The Lady Eagles continued to play in unity without skipping a beat against the Roughriders. After making a statement in the first two sets, 25-13 and 25-7, the Lady Eagles showed their depth of talent as the third set lineup consisted of a tough Eagle bench. Without hesitation, the team stepped up and completed the sweep of Yavapai, 25-19. (Stat Leaders: OH Kamryn Wiese 11 Kills, MB Lindsey Otero 4 Blocks, S Camber Dodson 25 Assists, and L Emma Ricks 19 Digs)
“Some of the best volleyball I have ever been a part of has been played over the past couple weeks. These girls amaze me every time they step on the court,” said head coach Danielle Jensen. “When adjustments are needed, they make the adjustments and when errors are made, they continue with a determination and focus I have never seen before. When the team isn’t on the court, they are cheering on those that are and that unity represents how special this group of girls are this year.”
The Lady Eagles continue to add to their record-breaking season as they improve to 10-2, defeating five nationally-ranked programs and earning the 6th best spot in the nation. They will wrap up their preseason as they travel to Torrington, Wyo. this weekend to take part in the Lancer Invitational.
The competition remains heightened as USU Eastern will rematch the two opponents that narrowly defeated them earlier this season in #5 Western Nebraska and #8 Northeastern, as well as taking on #12 Eastern Wyoming. Their first matchup comes against Casper College on Friday, Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. You can watch games LIVE on the USU Eastern Women’s Volleyball Facebook page.