The University of San Diego women’s volleyball program has been viewed as a powerhouse in the West Coast Conference and has shown to be one of the top volleyball programs in the nation the past two decades.
In 2017, the Toreros will be looking to add to their success and make a run in the NCAA tournament come winter time. The expectations are high and fans hope that this year’s team can bounce back after an unsuccessful season. This year they are motivated to continue the legacy surrounding Torero Volleyball at this school. These ladies want to continue their legacy as one of the top programs in the country and bring a conference championship back home to San Diego.
Head coach and San Diego native, Jennifer Petrie, has turned the University of San Diego into one of the top volleyball schools in the country since taking over in 1999. She has accumulated five West Coast Conference coach of the year honors and led the Toreros to an outstanding 14 NCAA tournament appearances in her fifteen seasons as head coach.
The USD team from last year graduated three seniors that made significant contributions for a team that finished 24-6 before losing to Baylor during the first round of the NCAA tournament last December. The Toreros are coming into 2017 with a balanced roster that features four new freshmen looking to make an impact and fill key roles for this team. The mentality at the forefront of these ladies is to build off last season and prove they can compete with the best teams in the conference and make a run at the 2017 conference title.
This year’s Torero squad is led by senior Jayden Kennedy, senior server Kristen Gengenbacher, freshman standout Roxie Wiblin, and juniors Lauren Fuller and Kaity Edwards. So far this season, USD is opening eyes across the country with their 5-1 offensive attack, but they are going to need to make improvements on defense. Despite losing enormous amounts of experience and talent on the roster, Coach Petrie is the coach to lead the USD women’s volleyball team to another successful season with the depth and youth on that team.
The Toreros are currently off to a hot start in their 2017 campaign while opening the season 10-3 (3-0 in the WCC) heading into their league play contest Saturday afternoon against the #9 ranked and 14-1 BYU Cougars. The Toreros were on a six-game winning streak going into their high profile contest with BYU and expected this game to come down to the wire. The Jenny Craig Pavilion was rowdy and packed last Saturday, ready to cheer on the Toreros for this highly anticipated matchup with the 9th ranked team in the nation. This year’s BYU team is built around accuracy, strong defense, and strong hitters up front. This game was a major test for USD to see where they stood against one of the top teams in their conference.
After playing the game, Juniors Lauren Fuller and Kaity Edwards mentioned how this was one of the most important games of the season because of how good BYU was and how it will prepare them for later matchups this season.
Both teams were prepared and really came out swinging from the beginning as they looked to gain an advantage on their opponent. The first set ended with BYU’s defense stifling the USD Toreros, making them victorious by a score of 25-23. The opening set made for a true back and forth contest, with fourteen ties and six different lead changes.
The Toreros played with lots of emotion being on their home court. They weren’t going to stop their teamwork and determination. USD stayed head to head with BYU in the second set while Jayden Kennedy and Roxie Wiblin led this Toreros’ squad to a 25-23 win going into halftime. The USD team and fans were fired up and ready to win this very competitive matchup with the 9th ranked BYU Cougars. The Toreros finished the second set with a total of 19 kills and a .286 kill percentage, allowing them to flip flop the score and tie the game 1-1 going into halftime. BYU finished with only 12 kills at a .242. kill percentage in the second set.
The second half started with the BYU Cougars coming prepared right away, while using their strength up front to accumulate enough blocks and kills to win the 3rd set 25-20. The 9th ranked Cougars did this with a .324 kill percentage and only three errors. The BYU Cougars were led on Saturday afternoon by seniors McKenna Miller and Lyndie Haddock, who lead the nationally ranked cougars team in both kills and assists.
The 4th set was a tough one for the Toreros. They were trying to protect their home court advantage and send this game to the 5th set. The BYU Cougars ended up controlling the tempo and the entire 4th set. They continued to use their strong defense and frontcourt to collect 18 kills at an exceptional .469 kill percentage. This Cougars’ attack up front and efficiency on the offensive and defensive side of the ball gave them the advantage, eventually taking the 4th set by a score of 25-18, and the series 3-1.
After the game, Junior starter Lauren Fuller was interviewed and spoke about how her emotion and hard work on the court helped to motivate her teammates. This extra effort pushed her teammates to play harder and step up in this game. Fuller said, “the main takeaway for us after this game was that our defense really needs to step up for next week”. The positives she saw were that lower classmen on this team can come out under pressure and fill in key roles on the team. Fuller said “ I think our main strengths are strong passing in our 5-1 offensive attack and staying connected with server Kristen Gechenbacher”.
While moving forward, this balanced and determined Toreros team was able to learn a lot from this game. The last thing Fuller mentioned was how this loss will push them and motivate this team for the rest of the season. Red shirt junior, Kaity Edwards, was another player that was interviewed post game and mentioned that the hardest part about losing this game was losing at home in front of our fans and city. Edwards said “all we can do is move on from this loss and come out and play even harder next week, next month, and for the rest of this season”. The USD Toreros have a rematch with BYU on October 27th on the road in Provo, Utah. Maybe next time these two team’s match up, an improved and motivated Toreros squad will come out on top.