New era begins with high hopes


Despite change, the Jacks enter 2011 with aspirations for a title.

The Jackrabbit volleyball team will enter the season with their sights aimed high, and a new coach.

Phil McDaniel, a former SDSU assistant volleyball coach from 2005-07, was hired in February after Nanabah Allison-Brewer’s resignation, and has a fairly impressive résumé.

In three seasons at the helm at Drake University, McDaniel took an eight-win team and turned the Bulldogs into a 20-win contender in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Jackrabbits team he inherits has plenty of returning players and won’t require much program rebuilding, so the early expectations are high.

“If we don’t get to the conference championship match, I think that would be a let down,” McDaniel said. “Our goal is to get ourselves there, hopefully win the matches and make the NCAA Tournament.”

McDaniel will have some good hitters to work with, as the top five kill leaders return, including reigning Summit League Player of the Year, Kelli Fiegen and senior-to-be Ellyce Youngren.

“We’re a veteran team, so hopefully they can use their past experiences to guide us through any rough patches we may have,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel was quick to point out that even though the team is loaded with talent, he is a new coach, which brings with it new schemes and philosophies.

Earlier this year, McDaniel said fans can look forward to a high-energy, fast-paced offense that will have fans “hooked” once they see it.

According to Youngren, the team has a positive outlook on the coaching change.

“It’s exciting. Ever since Phil’s first day, we’ve all had a good attitude about the change and we’re excited to see where he can take us,” Youngren said.

The Jacks don’t have many holes to fill, but one need is to replace setter Thyele Rechatiko, who was a senior last fall. Her replacement is likely sophomore Lexi Fowler, who McDaniel said has been working hard and had a good spring.

Fowler’s play could be key this fall, as she is charged with distributing the ball to her talented hitters.

One way to take some of the pressure off of Fowler is a strong defense. Even when SDSU’s offense struggled last season, the defense was the rock. The Jacks’ defense will be anchored by Fiegen, who led the team in blocks and averaged 1.21 blocks per set, good for 46th in the nation.

“I want to end things right by winning the Summit League and making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in my career,” Youngren said. “It’s very exciting because we have all the right people on our team to take us there.”