Volleyball Prepares for Big Sky Play

As the preseason comes to a close and Big Sky play pokes ndints nose around the corner, the Southern Utah Volleyball team strives to improve and establish a culture of winning under new head coach Pete Hoyer.

The 2017 season proved a rough one for the T-Birds. The squad finished last place in the Big Sky with a 7-21 (2-14) record. Coach Hoyer will enter the new conference season with a very young team looking to get their feet wet in the heat of conference competition.

Ten of the thirteen players on the 2018 roster are underclassmen. That group has been lead by sophomore Janet Kalaniuvalu who has recorded 114 kills along with 68 digs thus far in the preseason. Freshman Emma Mangum has also been a big contributor with 57 kills in the first three tournaments. The team has also been very happy with the success of sophomore setter Alexis Averett (247 assists) and freshman libero Miahna Waters (149 digs).

SUU has played in three tournaments so far, and are 1-8 in those contests. The lone win came Lin a 3-0 sweep Jacksonville State. The T-Birds have competed well in each tournament and pushed San Francisco, Saint Mary’s (CA), and Grand Canyon to five sets.

Kalaniuvalu is the real deal. As a freshman she tallied 239 kills in 91 sets, and her 114 kills in 33 sets so far in 2018 put her on track to potentially top 300 kills this season. Kalaniuvalu should get some all-conference hype this season if her play continues at this level. She is the leader of this team and will shoulder a large burden of the teams success.

Along with the new players came a new coaching staff. Head coach Pete Hoyer has had success in stints at Dayton, UTSA, and NC State, and looks to focus on improving rather than focusing on the scoreboard. Coach Hoyer’s assistants are Lorelle, his wife, and former star player Annie Stephens.

SUU was picked to finish 10th by the Big Sky coaches, but the team has a lot of bright, young players that look to capitalize on their big upside. In practice Coach Hoyer emphasizes creating a culture of individual improvement that will contribute to the success of the team.

Coach Hoyer is right to shut out the scoreboard and focus on improving. The transition from one coach to another is always difficult and especially so with a team as young as this one. The squad will not be competing for the Big Sky title but should look at this year as the perfect opportunity to set a strong foundation going forward.

In these transitional periods, leadership is exceptionally important. Lone senior Rylee Rogers, junior Thea Leiataua and Kalaniuvalu need to help establish the culture of winning that Coach Hoyer hopes to bring with him to Cedar City.

The T-Birds will wrap up the preseason this weekend in California. They match up against Fresno State, Loyola Marymount and UC Irvine. The UCI tournament will make for a strong end to the preseason and should hopefully help the squad gain some momentum heading into the conference season.

Big Sky play begins Thursday, Sept. 20, against rival Weber State in the America First Event Center, and continues through November.

Be sure to follow @SUUVolleyball on Twitter for updates about the team and watch the matches on Pluto TV, channel 236.

Full Conference Schedule:

SEP 20 (THU) 6:30 PM MT VS.WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY

SEP 22 (SAT) 1:00 PM MT VS. IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY

SEP 27 (THU) 8:00 PM MT AT SACRAMENTO STATE

SEP 29 (SAT) 2:00 PM MT AT PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY.

OCT 4 (THU) 6:30 PM MT VS UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA

OCT 6 (SAT) 1:00 PM MT VS MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY

OCT 8 (MON) 6:30 PM MT VS NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY

OCT 11 (THU) 7:00 PM MT AT UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO

OCT 18 (THU) 7:00 PM MT AT IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY

OCT 20 (SAT) 1:00 PM MT WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY

OCT 25 (THU) 6:30 PM MT VS PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY

OCT 27 (SAT) 1:00 PM MT VS SACRAMENTO STATE

NOV 1 (THU) 7:00 PM MT  ATMONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY

NOV 3 (SAT) 7:00 PM MT AT UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA

NOV 6 (TUE) 7:00 PM MT AT NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY

NOV 9 (FRI) 6:30 PM MT VS UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO

NOV 15 (THU) 6:30 PM MT VS EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

NOV 17 (SAT) 8:00 PM MT AT UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO

NOV 21 (WED) NOV 24 (SAT)  BIG SKY TOURNAMENT GREELEY, COLO.

Story by: Connor Sanders
sports@suunews.net
Photo by: Connor Sanders

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