DSU follows up PacWest title with in-state win

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Dixie State University volleyball wrapped up regular season play with a two-game home stand in preparation for the NCAA tournament. 

DSU was forced to fend off upset-minded Westminster College Wednesday Nov. 18, just three days after clinching the school’s first ever conference championship.

The Storm came into the game with an 18-9 overall record and were heavily favored against 7-19 Westminster, but that didn’t stop the Griffins from putting up a fight. 

 “You’ve got to give [Westminster] credit,” head coach Robyn Felder said. “They played well and battled, but I think we also lost focus and got complacent.” 

Led by senior outside hitter Alyse Horton, who had 11 kills and 14 digs, WC battled with the Storm throughout the match.

However, DSU’s towering front line proved to be too much for the Griffins to handle. 

The Storm came out on top 25-16, 25-23, 25-19 in consecutive sets Wednesday night despite trailing Westminster several times. DSU finished with a hitting percentage of .303 while holding WC to just .205 on the night. 

“We were ultimately able to get it done,” Felder said. “We will have to play better on Saturday to beat Fresno Pacific University, though.” 

Redshirt freshman outside hitter Taylor Duryea once again led the way for DSU by hitting .452 for the match, tallying 16 kills, two aces and a block. Duryea was named Pacific West Conference freshman of the week for the second time this season after the team’s championship performance in Hawaii. 

Junior setter Kailey Frei had another efficient outing for DSU. She had 11 digs and racked up 36 of the team’s 42 assists en route to the victory. 

Next up was Fresno Pacific University, a team that came into Saturday as the winners of eight straight games. FPU came out slow, allowing the Storm to jump out to a two-set lead. 

DSU dominated the opening sets 25-18, and 25-19, and seemed to be in complete control until the Sunbirds rallied. 

FPU used stifling defense to limit the Storm in the final three sets and complete the comeback. Three different players had four or more blocks for the Sunbirds as they won the final three sets 25-10, 25-19 and 15-9. 

DSU committed 24 errors and finished with an abysmal hitting percentage of .150, and FPU out-blocked the Storm 16-4 in the match. 

“We had a good opportunity to come back home and get some momentum before the tournament,” said senior middle blocker Makenzi Bird-Murphey, a communication major from St. George. “Coming home with a conference championship was awesome, but we lost our focus and let them get back into it. That’s something we won’t be able to get away with in the tournament.”

With the loss, DSU dropped to 19-10 on the season, but the conference championship gives it an automatic qualifier position in the NCAA Tournament starting Friday. DSU will travel north to face No. 1 seed University of Alaska-Anchorage. The Storm defeated No. 1 seed Northwest Nazarene University during their Sweet-16 run last season.