USU volleyball: Aggies enter the MW with new teams and some familiar ones from the WAC
Last season, Utah State volleyball was in the same conference from the previous year, but with a different look featuring half the league being new. This season, Utah State is entering a new conference with a somewhat familiar look, as the Aggies are entering their first season in the Mountain West Conference after eight seasons in the Western Athletic Conference. Of the other 10 teams in the MW, four were fellow WAC foes in the last three seasons.
“It’s just an unknown going into this new conference. We just don’t know. We don’t know much about the travel yet,” DuBose said. “We know the top teams — San Diego State, New Mexico, Colorado State — we know they’re going to be good. We’re familiar with San José State, Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State, because of previous conference affiliations. We just don’t know much about the guys in the middle. I don’t know much about UNLV or Air Force. I’m going to learn. We just don’t know much yet because we haven’t had any film on them, and that’s a concern.”
What won’t be a concern for DuBose is returning success, as USU is coming off a 21-9 overall season, with a 15-3 league record. Utah State won its first-ever WAC regular-season title in 2012 to go with its 2010 WAC Tournament Championship in its eighth and final season in the league. Another area that won’t be a concern is returning talent as DuBose and USU have four starters plus the libero back, and all four returning starters were all-WAC honorees a year ago.
Headlining the Aggies’ returners are junior setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.) and junior outside hitter Rachel Orr (Thatcher, Ariz.), who earned first-team all-WAC honors last season.
USU also has two second-team all-WAC honorees returning in junior middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah) and sophomore Elle Brainard (Saratoga Springs, Utah). In addition to second-team all-WAC honors a year ago, Brainard was the WAC Freshman of the Year and was also on the all-freshman team. After excelling at middle blocker last season, Brainard is shifting to opposite side hitter this season.
“We really expect a big season out of Paige Neves. She’s a returning letterman, having started since she was a freshman. She’s really gotten comfortable with running the offense we want to run at the speed we want to run it," DuBose said. "We expect a big season out of Elle as well. She had a nice freshman season in the middle and had never played middle before. We recruited her for the right side, so it will be nice to get her back in her more comfortable position. Rachel Orr is a nice outside hitter. She’s a multi-sport athlete and an all-conference high jumper.”
In addition to the four starters, USU also returns its libero from last season in junior Ashlan Rogers-Court (Highland, Utah).
Adding to the mix are senior middle blocker Alyssa Everett (Perry, Utah), who returns to action after redshirting last season with a knee injury.
“We think we’re going to be pretty good overall. We’re returning a nice core group of kids," DuBose said. "We’re bringing a kid off an ACL injury in Alyssa Everett who didn’t play last year. I think we have a chance to be okay. I don’t know much about the Mountain West other than that it’s a good conference. I haven’t analyzed them enough. I’ve watched a few matches here and there, but I’ve been more worried about us than our opponents so far.”
One worry for DuBose this season is replacing departed seniors Shay Sorenson and Josselyn White, who earned first-team all-WAC honors last season.
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