The women’s volleyball team played in their Green & White match Tuesday night in front of their fans in the Activity Center. The pre-season match allowed head coach Sam Atoa and company a chance to analyze their game play after losing a few experienced seniors from last season.
The 2011-12 season was successful overall for the Wolverines. The team won 23 games on the season, beating their previous record of 21 total wins. They accomplished that goal along with winning their first ever Great West Conference Championship. To top it all off, the team averaged a 3.30 cumulative GPA in the classroom allowing them to be recognized for the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award.
“It’s a great honor,” Atoa said in regards to the award. “I think the girls worked really hard every year. It’s something we emphasize every year: academics. We have a specific academic goal and that goal led us to be recognized for the AVCA award.”
It is safe to say that one of the only areas the volleyball team fell short was in winning the Great West Tournament. Hosted by North Dakota in the 2011-12 season, UVU was able to perform well in the tournament but fell short.
Now the team will look to the new season with some new opportunities along with some familiar ones in sight.
“We still want to be able to win the conference and to win the conference tournament,” Atoa said. “I think those are two important goals to work towards.”
To accomplish these goals, UVU will have to work with two large challenges that are present this upcoming season: a young team and and very few home matches. Eight to be exact.
The limited home games is a large change for the team, even Atoa admitted that the team has been “spoiled” in the past when it came to home games. One of the eight home games will be against in-state rivals Weber State. Though the Wolverines will only host one in-state rival, they will play the other four on the road. This includes BYU, Utah, Southern Utah and Utah State.
“We are just planning on taking advantage of the home games that we do have,” setter Brookelyn Hall said. “Then we will try to take that momentum on the road with us.”
Looking on the brighter side of the schedule, Utah Valley will be hosting the Great West Conference Tournament in mid-November to wrap up the season. The team feels that the opportunity to host the tournament will make for a great cap to the season.
“For the last few years we have had to travel to other universities,” junior Lindsay Morrell said. “It will be nice to be able to stay here at home.”
The team is young and Atoa may be analyzing different playing situations as the season starts up, specifically with the freshmen. Atoa and the coaching staff have obviously chosen freshmen that have no experience at the college level, but played aggressively at the club level.
Although Atoa never emphasized a specific freshman that he expected a big push from at this point, he did announce that Emily Mendenhall and Rachel Steele will both be redshirting for the upcoming season.
“It’s hard to say what to expect,” Atoa said. “We are a young team, we have not been this young for a long time. However, I am encouraged with the talent that we have.”
The important aspect that stands after all of this is that Atoa and the rest of the staff are confident in the talent of the team. There isn’t doubt among them in regards to whether or not the team can accomplish their goals of a GWC championship, it’s just a matter of going out and performing.
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Atoa said. “We are young, but a very talented young team with endless possibilities.”