Jacks block out last season

By Robert Myers Sports Editor

After falling in their first game of the year, the SDSU women’s volleyball team rebounded to sweep their final three games of the weekend.

Last year’s rebuilding year looks to be a thing of the past as a determined group of veterans and newcomers look poised for a much more competitive season.

“It’s a different group. They’ve got a different mindset,” said head coach Phil McDaniel of his team this season. “The group that was here last year obviously knows what we went through, knows the struggles. I had faith that they weren’t going to let that happen again. The new players that come in bring us new energy, bring a new hungriness that they want to win.”

SDSU opened 2014 on Friday morning at the UMES Tournament in Maryland, falling to the University of Maryland Baltimore County in three sets.

“I thought that we had a few jitters in the very first match,” McDaniel said. “We had some new players out there playing so I think they were just getting used to the speed of the game.”

The Jacks rebounded later that day, taking the first set 25-22 on route to a sweep of Weber State University to split the day. They then carried on the momentum into Saturday where they faced off against the hosting University of Maryland East Shore, winning the first set 29-27 before finishing off the Hawks in three sets.

“Once they settled down, once they got to matches two, three and four, for the rest of the weekend I thought we actually played pretty sharp,” McDaniel said.

Not settling for the split, the Jacks defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 26-24, 25-13 and 25-23 to claim their third win of the young season.

Freshman Ashley Beaner garnered All-Tournament Team honors for the Jacks. She had 40 kills over the weekend to go with 10 block assists and a .372 hitting percentage. After deciding last year to attend the University of Nebraska without playing sports, Beaner later changed her mind and transferred to SDSU in the spring.

“She was with us in the spring so I had a pretty good idea we had something special with her,” McDaniel said. “She’s a very physical player, super athletic. She’s come a long way just in the four months she was here in the spring and what she’s done so far in fall camp.”

Beaner was not the only strength for SDSU and McDaniel was quick to credit other members of his team.

“Both our middles were pretty good. Both Ti [Tiara Gibson] and Wags [Wagner Larson] had a good weekend. Kacey Herrmann had a good weekend on the outside for us. Margit [Hansing] had a really solid weekend for her first weekend back from ACL injury. Our setters are developing. They’re both young, a sophomore and a freshman that are both getting significant playing time. They both came a long way over this past weekend,” McDaniel said.

One area the Jacks held an advantage over their opponents was in blocks. Only against UMES did SDSU not win the category on the final stats sheet.  

“Blocking was one of the things we really focused on,” McDaniel said. “Last year our numbers weren’t good enough to be competitive, so we kind of have three areas circled. We’re looking at blocking, we’re looking at passing and we’re looking at attacking. … If we are tops in the conference in those three categories we think we can make some noise, do some damage.”

The biggest weakness for the Jacks came in the area of serves and serves received.

“Our serving and serve receive is the area that I graded us the lowest on for the weekend,” McDaniel said. “The team knows it. We have to be better at the service line and we have to be better in serve receive, so we’re going to hit that hard this week.”

SDSU remains at home for the next two weeks, beginning with the Jackrabbit invitational which will be played on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5 and 6.  

“It’s going to be a tough weekend,” McDaniel said. “We’ve got three very evenly matched teams coming in so there will be four of us total here. It’s going to be a battle. We’re going to have to play cleaner volleyball. We’ll have to play sharper. We’re going to have to do that to come out with a winning record this weekend.”