On Wednesday night, the Utah State volleyball team will take the floor of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum for the final time this season. For three Aggies, this match against Texas State will be the last time they will suit up in front of their home crowd.
Setter Kassi Hargrove, opposite side hitter Shay Sorensen and outside hitter Josselyn White have spent four years as a part of Aggie volleyball, and in that time, they have been a part of a dynamic program.
Without hesitation, each senior will tell you that her favorite memory of her college volleyball career so far happened on Nov. 24, 2010. In the championship game of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., the Aggies swept No. 3 Hawai’i, 3-0, to claim the first WAC Tournament title in school history.
“That was definitely one of the best volleyball memories I’ve ever had,” White said. “It was so unexpected. To be able to go in and really come together as a team and see it manifest the way it did was really cool. That’s something not a lot of people get to be a part of.”
That momentous win came when the trio were just sophomores. Now, as experienced seniors, they are being sent off in a similar fashion.
With one match still to play, Utah State has already clinched its first-ever regular season WAC title, earning the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament. The Aggies have an overall record of 19-8, including a 14-3 league record. Those 14 conference wins are a program-best for Utah State. A win Wednesday would also give the Aggies their 11th 20-win season in school history.
In the preseason polls, Utah State was picked to finish fourth in the conference. The team made it their collective goal from the very beginning and set out to prove the critics wrong.
“It’s been our goal and we knew we could do it,” Sorensen said about being WAC champions. “It’s something the team has wanted for so long.”
To be a part of two WAC titles is something that means a lot to these seniors, and something they knew they could do.
“It just kind of shows how strong we are and how much potential we have. Our team is better than people thought,” Hargrove said. “Don’t ever underestimate us.”
Utah State head coach Grayson DuBose is proud of his team and their success, which helped him reach his 100th career win earlier this season, and how they've exceeded their expectations this season.
“Polls are fun, but you never know how they’re going to shake out until you hit the court,” he said. “These girls have meant a lot to our program as far as setting a standard, setting an expectation level that’s pretty high. They took a risk coming here and playing for me at Utah State.”
The success the team has seen this season is the best way the seniors can think of to end their careers. It has resulted in countless memories and experiences that they know will stay with them forever.
“One of my favorite memories has just been this whole year. It’s just been fun,” Sorensen said. “We have a great group of girls and have just been able to mesh together really well.”
It’s not always easy for teammates to get along with each other, combining long hours of practice and strenuous road trips, but the current Aggie squad gets along really well.
“Everything relates back to my teammates. They are so much fun, especially this group of girls. We just get along really well. Every one of them has made an impact on my life in some way or another,” White said. “They’re the sisters I never had. They know so much about me. We talk about school, boys, volleyball, and they know it all. It’s going to be hard to not be as involved in each other’s lives.”
Hargrove agreed, noting the importance of being a part of the volleyball program in her life.
“I’ll miss the atmosphere of being on a team. Having that bond with 15 other people like this is a different kind of bond. They really know what you go through,” she said.
As their Utah State careers draw to a close, the seniors know they have been a part of something great.
“The last four years have been the best of my life. I’ve loved every minute of it. Being a part of Utah State volleyball has been the best thing I could do,” Sorensen said. “I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet, or maybe I’ve just put off thinking about it. It’s going to be really hard playing my last game in the Spectrum. I don’t really know what to think about it. I’ve had the best four years here, but I know it has to come to an end sometime.”
Though they are sad to see their time at Utah State come to an end, the three know that there will always come a time to move on. Volleyball has been a constant part of their lives not only through college, but high school and even younger.
“From your freshman year you never think this day will come. Grayson always asks ‘What legacy are you going to leave? One day it will all be over.’ but I would think ‘Here goes this lecture again.’ Now, it’s going to be over,” White said. “It’s weird, especially when you’ve done something for so long. I feel ready though. I think everything has its time and purpose, and for volleyball, that’s coming to an end pretty soon. I’ve accepted it.”
Through the blood, sweat and tears that have gone in to their volleyball careers, these three Aggies have learned a lot and are ready to face a world outside of college volleyball.
“Each day seems like the longest day of your life, but then all of a sudden a week is gone, a month is gone, four years are gone,” Hargrove said. “It’s very bittersweet. All this time and hard work we’ve put in is coming to an end. It’s time for me to move on with my life and kind of grow up.”
This trio has grown up off the floor as well, as by this spring, all three will have graduated and all three have earned academic all-WAC honors, as well as USU Whitesides Scholar-Athlete accolades during their time as Aggies.
As they head into the final match of their regular season, DuBose is proud of the things Sorensen, White and Hargrove have accomplished.
“You get a little emotional when you think about those girls. It’s been four years of getting to see and know them and care about them. They’re great people, who are going to do wonderful things with their lives. It’s just who they are.”
Tickets for Thursday's Utah State volleyball match are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Megan Allen writes for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company