For just the sixth time since 2009, Southern Utah University’s Women’s Volleyball team has eclipsed the ten-win mark. If the season ended today, they would have more wins than all but four SUU teams of the last ten years.
But this impressive crew still has 11 regular season games and the Big Sky Conference Tournament left to play before they can call this season a success.
The T-Birds are defying expectations in 2019. They were picked to finish ninth in the preseason coaches’ poll, but sit tied for third with key matchups against Eastern Washington and Idaho this weekend.
Things looked grim when starting setter Alexis Averett went down with an injury against Boise State. They looked even more grim when her backup, Sadae Cintron, injured her leg later on that match.
Head Coach Pete Hoyer turned to sophomore walk-on Corrin Peterson, and she’s become one of the conference’s most productive setters. Peterson wasn’t really expected to play much coming into the season, but now finds herself third in the conference with 10.13 assists per set.
Setting may not even be Peterson’s greatest skill, as she sits second in the conference in service aces per set. The 2019 season has seen Peterson make huge strides in her distribution and passing.
Peterson’s breakout has been incredible, but she hasn’t done it alone. There is a talented fleet of hitters around her and SUU is third in the conference in hitting percentage.
Shannon Webb is second in the conference in kills per set with 3.81. Webb is the focal point of the offense and is a swiss army knife in attack. Webb manages to score with power, on tips, with spin shots and might be the most skilled player in the conference. Anything less than a first team All-Big Sky honor for her would be a travesty.
Junior Stacey Hone might also have a case for all-conference recognition. Hone is seventh in the Big Sky with 3.04 kills per set. The Snow College transfer hits with a ton of top spin on the ball and can score from every area of the court. Her ability to hit from the middle adds a lot to the offense.
Katie Montgomery has made major strides forward in her sophomore season. Montgomery leads the conference in hitting percentage and is a strong blocker.
Freshmen Madison Williams and Raegan Ashby have made massive impacts in their first seasons, as well. Ashby is still raw on offense, but may be the team’s best blocker. Williams has stepped up after Thea Leiataua made the transition to libero last week.
Leiataua has quickly learned her new role and is providing quality passing after last season’s starter, Miahna Waters, left the team earlier this season.
Coaches always expect improvement and success from their athletes, but this is close to a dream scenario for Hoyer and the T-Birds. SUU won six games last season, and they’ve nearly doubled that total without even reaching the halfway point of conference play yet.
If they can keep the momentum going, they’ll at least be a tough out in the conference tournament. If they continue to improve and find another level, beating Northern Arizona on Monday, Oct. 21, then they might be ready to challenge for the Big Sky conference title.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of: SUU Athletics