By: Dylan Webb – Sports Editor
The SFU volleyball team will head to Utah for the Dixie State Classic to kick off their 2019 season this weekend. Head coach Gina Schmidt is confident that her group of mostly veteran players will be able to draw on their experience and off-season training to finish higher than the solid fourth place showing they achieved in the GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) standings last season.
“We spent a lot of time this past spring working on a few areas that we thought we needed to improve after last season. These included our overall blocking, increasing our offensive efficiency, and tougher serving. We saw progress over the spring season, and we are hoping to carry that over into this fall,” Schmidt said in light of a preseason GNAC coaches’ poll that predicted a repeat of last season’s fourth place finish for SFU.
Schmidt noted that SFU has “a very experienced squad this year so one of our biggest focuses will be keeping everyone healthy and on the court for matches.” She added that, “Our core group has been together for a few years now so we are trying to put them into as many game situations as possible to prepare them for every situation they may encounter this season.”
SFU capped last season with a run of five straight wins that contributed to ensuring the Clan’s top five finish. While months have gone by since the streak was put on hold by a long and untimely off season, SFU will hope to rekindle this momentum on two lengthy road trips to start the year. While the Dixie State Classic and the D2 West Region volleyball showcase will certainly be a competitive challenge on the court, the two road trips will also serve as key team-building opportunities — early season road trips are often vital for absorbing new recruits into an already strong team culture laden with veteran leadership.
Speaking of veteran leadership, the list of players returning to the squad for the upcoming season includes Angelica Kilberg, Kirsten Pinkney, Betsie de Beer, Julia Tays, Katerina Dolguikh, Bianca Te, and Nicole Chevrier. Tessa May and Jayme Bratsberg are notable subtractions from the roster.
Of these returning players, de Beer and Tays were elected to the 2019 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Volleyball Preseason All-Conference Team. Their contributions will be vital if SFU hopes to extend its stretch of fifteen plus win seasons from five to six in 2019.
While the list of returning veterans is lengthy, the team will still welcome five new faces to the fold as Serena Gentile, Jocelyn Sherman, Hanna Kolof, Abby Willett and Brooke Dexter all have signed National Letters of Intent to join SFU Volleyball for the upcoming season.
After their roadtrips, SFU will play its home opener on September 19 against Central Washington in the West Gym at 7:00 p.m. Fans attending the game will have an opportunity to snag some SFU swag as t-shirts featuring the new SFU brand will be given away to all fans in attendance. As the fall semester looms, SFU sports fans can at least take solace in the fact that the West Gym is about to get a lot louder and more exciting as volleyball returns to Burnaby Mountain.