Thunderbirds Fall Short to St. George Rivals Dixie State University

After a four month delay to the start of season, the Southern Utah University women’s volleyball team kicked off their year against Dixie State University on Friday. The Thunderbirds failed to play to DSU’s level and lost 3-0.

Coming off a successful 2019-20 season and finishing 15-16 overall, the Thunderbirds took this postponement to focus on forming a team that is home to eight new players. 

Bridget Triplett, a transfer from Snow College, ended her first evening as a Thunderbirds with six kills and two solo blocks.

Dowell began her final season with the Thunderbirds and stacked up 10 kills overall and finished with a .533 hitting average. 

Junior Andreanna Mckee ended her debut game for SUU with 14 kills and 40 total assists.

The Trailblazers took on the Thunderbirds in their first Division I game in program history. 

During the first set, SUU struggled to find a flow on defense. Dixie State’s Mykenna Nelson and Whittnee Nihipali led both teams with 13 digs while Elisa Lago from SUU managed seven. The Thunderbirds totalled eight kills while Dixie racked up 13 and had a .281 hitting percentage.  

Regardless of the Thunderbirds’ efforts, Dixie took the set 25-18.

The Thunderbirds took more control in set two, but ultimately couldn’t keep up with Dixie State.  DSU’s Nihipali had six kills and helped the Trailblazers claim the set 25-21.  

Third set was a nail biter. Southern Utah may have trailed Dixie State throughout the match, but the Thunderbirds waited until the end to make their move. After an important kill from McKenzie Dowell, the score was tied 24-24 — the breaking point for either team. 

Dixie found an empty spot on SUUs side of the court on consecutive points and recorded their first Division I win when Lauolive Tonga from Dixie State found an open spot on the court, earning them a 26-24 win and their first Division 1 victory.

With SUUs recent announcement that they will be moving into the Western Athletic Conference, southern Utah rivals, Dixie State, will regularly appear on their season schedule beginning in 2022.

Dixie State finished an impressive season last year as they went 14-4 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and even saw playing time in the championship tournament.

The Thunderbirds will take a road trip to Moscow and face the University of Idaho Vandals in a double header on January 31 and February 1. The game can be viewed on PlutoTV channel 1055 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. MST respectively. 

Story by: Lainie Hallows
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz