Volleyball historic season ends in heartbreak

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Despite a valiant effort, David could not beat Goliath this time around. 

Dixie State University’s volleyball team fell to No. 1 ranked University of Alaska-Anchorage in the first round of the NCAA West Regional tournament in front of a record-breaking crowd Friday night. 

“It was awesome playing in front of a crowd like that,” said freshman outside hitter Taylor Duryea. “There’s nothing better than silencing the home team’s crowd, and we were able to do that multiple times. We didn’t quite get the outcome we wanted, but it was one of the [most fun] games I’ve ever played in.” 

The Pacific West Conference champion Storm put up quite a fight, taking the hometown Seawolves to a decisive fifth set before falling just short, 15-12. 

DSU beat the No. 1 overall seed last season when it upset Northwest Nazarene University. This time, however, the glass slipper wasn’t the right fit as UAA spoiled the Storm’s hopes of a repeat Cinderella story. 

The teams exchanged blows during the tight contest and were forced into a winner-take-all fifth set. This was relatively unfamiliar territory for the Seawolves, as they had only been taken to the fifth set twice all season long. The Storm used that to their advantage, jumping out to a commanding 7-3 lead. That would be the largest deficit the Seawolves faced as they rallied back. The Storm saw their lead, along with their championship hopes, evaporate. 

After losing their leader and conference player of the year, junior outside hitter Katelynn Zanders, the shorthanded Seawolves rallied back to take the lead at 10-9. UAA didn’t look back, eventually beating the Storm for a spot in the tournament semi-finals. 

Duryea, a communication major from Logan, led the Storm with 15 kills in the match, and junior setter Kailey Frei tallied 35 assists and 11 digs, her seventh double-double of the season. 

In their final game as members of the Red Storm, senior libero Alex Anderson finished with a match-high 25 digs, and senior middle blocker Makenzi Bird-Murphey had nine kills and four blocks. Bird-Murphey finished her career as the all-time leader in block assists (238), and Anderson ended her time as the school’s all-time leader in sets played (389). 

“[Anderson] and Bird are amazing girls, students and athletes,” Duryea said. “They are the best examples you could ask for, and saying goodbye to them is extremely hard.” 

DSU’s historic season came to a close with a 19-11 overall record, the first PacWest championship in DSU history, five All-PacWest performers, and a second conference coach of the year award for head coach Robyn Felder.