Rachel Dyer and a host of other players led the BYU women's volleyball team into the NCAA Elite Eight last season, and despite losing much of their formidable crew, Dyer and others are keeping that same goal in mind again this season.
"We definitely want to win the conference, and we don't just want an NCAA appearance, but we want to go deep and contend for a title just like last year. In December, I want to be playing significant volleyball," Dyer said about her plans to extend her playing career as long as possible this season, which will be her last.
Dyer started playing middle blocker early in her playing career with a club team, and she loves playing that position for the Cougars.
"At a camp I went to, they said middles had the hardest job," Dyer notes. "As a middle, you have to make every set count, and I like the challenge. I love to play middle because I love to be creative and have offensive options."
She gives much of the credit to her club volleyball coach for helping her to reach her goal of playing volleyball at BYU and not ever having to play on a Sunday, and still allowing her to play basketball for her high school during that season.
Dyer would go to basketball practice after school and then go straight from there to club volleyball practice during those times of the year while still maintaining honor roll status at her high school.
Her club coach allowed her to miss Sunday games and knew basketball would win out when it came to a collision between the two sports. But he didn't just give Dyer a little special treatment. She played on the same club team as Stanford product and current WNBA player Candice Wiggins, who also had to make basketball her preference during the hoops season.
While Dyer was set in her ways on the volleyball court, she found her best attribute in basketball was versatility. And she believes that the two sports complemented each other rather than detracting from her skill sets in either.
The senior redshirted her freshman year and had the opportunity to go to Argentina with a group of volleyball players from across the country on the USA Select team. But even more than learning a great deal about volleyball, Dyer notes that she had an amazing cultural experience.
Then she went to Tonga during the summer with teammates Amy Schlauder and Bryn Porter to help teach children English.
And though she has a broad range of interests and hobbies, Dyer is extremely focused on helping her new team reach the same status the BYU team of 2007 reached. But she and her teammates are heading into a new conference season with a new head coach and several transfer players.
"Honestly, it was really hard. I was sad for a while about losing Jason (Watson). I still miss him. He's an awesome coach. But it's my responsibility to try to help keep the team together," said Dyer.
Shay Goulding replaced Watson as the BYU head coach last spring, which did give her an opportunity to work with her new team for a few extra months.
"We've still got a lot of work to do, but it's tough to beat us when we're clicking," said Goulding.
She doesn't want to overlook anyone in the conference as play begins tonight against Wyoming in Laramie.
"Traditionally we've had success, so anybody and everybody wants to beat us," she added.
And after starting the season 7-2 with a tight five-game loss to Wisconsin, the team is going to be sporting a target this year as well.
"We have a lot of depth on our bench, so we've had some frustrating times for players who aren't playing as much, but it's nice to know they are there and we can rely on them if the starters aren't getting it done," said Goulding.
Dyer is joined by fellow senior Porter, who leads the team at outside, and sophomore Kiana Rogers has stepped into a full-time starting roll after splitting time with Amy Schlauder last year.
Some other players who will make a huge impact are Lehi's Christina Measom, Pleasant Grove's Morgan Lloyd, Ashton Hansen Hosford, transfer Malia Marguardt and transfer Kayla Walker, who played at Davis."We knew we were gonna surprise some people this year. We know we can compete at that level," said Goulding of her team's ability to play on par with last year's team despite the loss of Chelsea Goodman, Erica Lott and Schlauder.