Weber State University’s volleyball team recently signed five new players with National Letters of Intent. The players include three high school seniors and two junior college transfers. Kristin Knowles, Dama Cox, Audrey Gee, Elysse Virden and Mackenzie Clark will all be joining the Wildcats’ lineup for the 2011 season.

WSU’s Bethany Wray spikes the ball during a recent volleyball practice. The Wildcats have signed five new recruits for the upcoming season. Photo by Bryan Butterfield

Knowles is a 5-foot-11 setter joining WSU as a junior from Western Wyoming Community College. She helped the Mustangs to a region championship and a third-place finish in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.

Cox is a 5-foot-11 outside hitter from the College of Southern Idaho. She helped the Eagles to the NJCAA national championship in 2010.

Gee is a 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Jordan High School. She was a three-time letter winner and also made All-State honorable mention as a senior.

Virden is a 6-foot-6 outsider hitter from Carson High School. She was the team captain, and led her team to the Zone semifinals in 2010 for the first time in 10 years. She was also a three-time letter winner.

Clark is a 6-foot-1 outside hitter from Rio Rancho High School. She helped her team to three consecutive semifinal appearances and the 2009 state championship. She competed with the USA Women’s Junior Continental Team and at the USA High Performance Championships.

Clark said she was drawn to WSU because of the calm and organized manner with which Head Coach Tom Peterson runs his team.

“He is very calm, which is something I like in a coach,” she said. “He is very organized in the way he runs practices. I know he is a good coach by his reputation.”

Clark also said that she is going to need to adjust quickly to the college level’s speed of the game.

“There is a big jump between high school and club level versus college,” she said. “Everything is faster. I am used to really high sets and things going a lot slower because I have played with younger girls. It will be adapting to the speed and the way things are different in college volleyball.”

Peterson said that the last few months he has been finalizing the team that will be in the gym this season. They have had a tough break with a few players who have decided not to return to WSU, and have been recruiting a number of players for this upcoming season.

“That is not an easy proposition to recruit for a few months from now, when most all the teams are recruiting for a few years from now,” Peterson said.

WSU Volleyball Captain Caitlin Penrod said she is excited for the new recruits and walk-ons. She said there will be a whole new feel in the gym and it will make the team better.

“I am really excited for all the girls that are coming in,” Penrod said. “We will have a really big roster next year. It’s going to be a completely different feel in the gym. It’s going to be super competitive. Everyone is going to have to fight for their position and I think it will motivate everyone.”

Clark said that she is hoping to be a player the other girls can count on when she comes to WSU.

“I hope to try and be somebody they can count on to terminate, to be the terminating hitter,” Clark said.  “I want to be the go-to girl. I want to play six rotations, the girl who can get that dig, that pass, that kill. I want to be the go-to girl.”

Peterson said he is also excited for the new team and the new feel the Wildcats will have. He also said that the team has a responsibility to be a good team.

“Considering what we tried to do, I believe we did very well and are fortunate to have a large number of good athletes wanting to be a part of our program,” Peterson added. “Our practice gym will be very competitive and at some time we will be a very good volleyball team. The responsibility now rests on all of us to make sure that happens sooner rather than later. A bonus for me is that these players we have are great people as well as great athletes.”

Penrod predicted that the team will be much better this year, and the competitive practices will translate into the games.

“We are definitely going to be a lot better than we have in the past. We are going to be a super scrappy team. We are going to go all out for every ball. It’s going to be such a change from last year and a different atmosphere, a different feel throughout the whole program.”

WSU’s first game is Aug. 26 at the University of Utah. Their first home game will be Sept. 3 against Brigham Young University Hawaii.

 

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