USU Volleyball looking to build on successful 2010 season

Despite losing four proven seniors who led Utah State to its fourth NCAA Tournament in school history with a 24-9 record and its first-ever Western Athletic Conference postseason tournament championship in 2010, Aggie coaches and players alike are both anxious and optimistic that enough experience and talent remain for yet another 20-win season and postseason berth. The main reason for that continued optimism surrounding Aggie volleyball this fall is the return of one of the most decorated players in USU history in senior outside hitter Liz McArthur, who became just the 11th player in school history to earn All-American honors as she was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) honorable mention team as a junior after finishing the year ranking 32nd nationally in points per set (4.59) and 34th in kills per set (4.00). As a junior, McArthur was named to the WAC’s first team and was voted the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 WAC Tournament after leading USU to its first-ever tournament championship with wins against Nevada (3-1), New Mexico State (3-2) and No. 3 Hawai’i (3-0). McArthur was also named the MVP of two preseason tournaments in 2010, was named the WAC’s Player of the Week twice and was even named the Collegiate Volleyball Update National Player of the Week after being named the Most Valuable Player of the Utah Classic. In addition to McArthur, Utah State returns two more proven starters along the antennas in junior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen and junior outside hitter Josselyn White. Like McArthur, Sorensen was also named the MVP of a preseason tournament in 2010 and finished the year being named to the WAC’s all-tournament team after a career-match against the Rainbow Wahine as she hit a career-high .684 with 13 kills on 19 swings with no errors. White’s best match of the season came against NMSU in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament as she notched a career-high 16 kills. As sophomores, Sorensen hit .221 (244-105-628) and averaged 2.20 kills and 0.81 blocks, while White hit .177 (294-119-991) and averaged 2.41 kills, 1.87 digs and 0.94 blocks per set. “We feel comfortable building around Liz, Josselyn and Shay with the amount of experience they bring to the table,” said sixth year head coach Grayson DuBose. “We also return some other key components with good experience and our returning sophomores and redshirts will continue to mature in our program as we strive to always get better.” Two players striving for more playing time in their junior seasons are a pair of two-year letterwinners in the program with plenty of experience in libero Laurel Bodily and setter Kassi Hargrove. Bodily has appeared in 62 matches and 241 sets in her first two years at USU and averaged 2.28 digs per set as a sophomore. Hargrove has played in 44 matches and 139 sets during her career and has posted 48 assists and 46 digs. Another player who saw action in 2010 is sophomore outside hitter Tumua Etimani who had six kills, 10 digs and four block assists appearing in six matches and 10 sets. USU also returns three redshirts this fall in sophomore middle blocker Nicole Gneiting, freshman opposite side hitter Jamaica Alisa and freshman setter Paige Neves. Joining Utah State’s core group of returners will be eight newcomers to the program including six freshmen that led to USU having one of the top 55 recruiting classes in the nation according to Highlighting this group of newcomers is junior middle blocker Alyssa Everett, freshmen middle blockers Shan England and Kaityln VanHoff, and freshmen outside hitters Elle Brainard, Rachel Orr and Alexis Walker. USU’s two other newcomers are a pair of backrow players in sophomore Kassie Mendenhall and freshman Ashlan Rogers. “Our goal is to always be competitive and to always compete for WAC Championships. With the scoring system the way it is now, it’s built around outside hitters and we return a lot of outside hitters and I think that will help us,” added DuBose. Once again, Utah State’s schedule will be very challenging as it plays 28 matches, including four against in-state opponents and four more against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago. “We are looking forward to a challenging schedule,” said DuBose. “We are playing teams from the Big West Conference, the Pac-12, and the Big East, as well as the West Coast Conference, and this schedule will prepare us for the teams in our league, that have always been tough competitors. We are fortunate again to be hosting a tournament and I would like to thank Gossner’s and Locker 42 for helping us run this wonderful event.” SETTERS Letterwinners Returning Letterwinners Lost Newcomers Kassi Hargrove *Chelsea Fowles Paige Neves * – 2010 starter One of the two biggest questions surrounding Utah State’s volleyball team this fall is who will fill the shoes of four-year starter Chelsea Fowles who graduated as the school’s all-time leader in assists with 4,520. Despite Fowles’ departure, USU does return two setters with experience in the program in junior Kassi Hargrove and redshirt freshman Paige Neves. Hargrove played in all 33 matches and 122 sets as a sophomore, including time at the setting position as she finished the year with 20 assists, 10 service aces and 42 digs. Neves, who redshirted last year, earned first-team all-state honors all four seasons at Burlington (Wyo.) High School and led her team to a state championship during her senior season. MIDDLE BLOCKERS Letterwinners Returning Letterwinners Lost Newcomers None *Katie Astle Nicole Gneiting-Theurer *Shantell Durrant Shan England Alyssa Everett Kaitlyn VanHoff * – 2010 starter Utah State also must replace its two starting middle blockers from a year ago in Katie Astle and Shantell Durrant, who both were named to the WAC’s second-team in 2010 and both rank among the top 10 middle blockers in school history in block assists and total blocks. USU does return one player here with experience in the program in sophomore Nicole Gneiting-Theurer who redshirted during her first year and missed this past season due to injury. As a prep senior at Palo Verde (Nev.) High School, Gneiting-Theurer earned first-team all-region honors and was named the region’s Most Valuable Player. Newcomers to this group include junior college transfer Alyssa Everett and freshmen Shan England and Kaitlyn VanHoff. Everett has spent the past two seasons at the College of Southern Idaho, helping the Golden Eagles to a National Championship in 2009. As a sophomore at CSI, Everett hit .261 (240-76-629) and averaged 2.02 kills, 0.65 blocks and 0.65 digs per set. England earned first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state honors as both a junior and senior at Cactus Shadow (Ariz.) High School, and VanHoff earned all-state honors in each of her last three seasons at Alta (Utah) High School. OUTSIDE/OPPOSITE SIDE HITTERS Letterwinners Returning Letterwinners Lost Newcomers Tumua Etimani Emily Kortsen Jamaica Alisa *Liz McArthur Elle Brainard *Shay Sorensen Rachel Orr *Josselyn White Alexis Walker * – 2010 starter Utah State is experienced, talented and deep at the antennas as it returns all three of its starters here from a year ago including senior All-American outside hitter Liz McArthur, along with junior opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen and junior outside hitter Josselyn White. McArthur was named an honorable mention All-American as a junior as she finished the year hitting .207 (504-208-1428) and averaging 4.00 kills, 1.90 digs, 0.48 blocks and 0.33 service aces per set. On the year, McArthur recorded double-digit kills in all but four matches and had at least 20 kills eight times to go along with eight double-doubles. She finished the season ranking first in the WAC in service aces per set (0.33), and was third in both kills and points (4.59) per set. Sorensen hit .221 (244-105-628) on the season and averaged 2.20 kills and 0.81 blocks per set. As a sophomore, Sorensen posted double-digit kills nine times and concluded her season by being named to the WAC’s all-tournament team after hitting .684 (13-0-19) against Hawai’i in the championship match. White hit .177 (294-119-991) a year ago and averaged 2.41 kills, 1.87 digs and 0.94 blocks per set, while posting double-digit kills 14 times and double-digit digs six times. Along with its three returning starters, Utah State also welcomes back two other players who were in the program last year in sophomore outside hitter Tumua Etimani and redshirt freshman opposite side hitter Jamaica Alisa. Etimani appeared in six matches and played in 10 sets as a true freshman and finished the year with six kills, 10 digs and four block assists. Alisa redshirted at USU last year after earning first-team all-state honors as a prep senior at Snow Canyon (Utah) High School. Three newcomers will also vie for playing time here in freshmen Elle Brainard, Rachel Orr and Alexis Walker. Brainard twice earned first-team all-state honors at Westlake (Utah) High School, Orr helped Thatcher (Ariz.) High School to back-to-back runner-up finishes at the state tournament, while Walker earned first-team all-region and all-district honors as a prep senior at Idaho Falls (Idaho) High School. LIBEROS Letterwinners Returning Letterwinners Lost Newcomers Laurel Bodily *Christine Morrill Kassie Mendenhall Ashlan Rogers * – 2010 starter Utah State must replace another record holder at libero after the graduation of four-year starter Christine Morrill who posted 1,846 digs during her Aggie career and was named to the WAC’s second-team as a senior. The Aggies, however, appear to have another defensive gem ready to fill Morrill’s shoes in junior Laurel Bodily who has played in 62 matches and 241 sets during her first two years at USU. As a sophomore, Bodily averaged 2.28 digs per set to rank second on the team and posted double-digits in digs 13 times. Bodily also notched 22 service aces a year ago and already has 44 aces during her first two years. Utah State’s other libero on the roster is freshman Ashlan Rogers who was named the Region 4 Most Valuable Player and the MVP of the state tournament as a prep senior at Lone Peak (Utah) High School. Another player who could see time here is junior transfer Kassie Mendenhall who prepped at Brighton (Utah) HS.

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