By: Katie Obear – Staff Writer
The Dayton volleyball team starts off its 2015 season Friday, when the Flyers face North Dakota. The match is in Ames, Iowa, as part of the Iowa State Challenge.
The Flyers finished the 2014 season with an overall record of 30-6 and went on to win the Atlantic 10 Championship
The Flyers continued on to the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated American, 3-1, in the first round. However, their season ended with a loss to Penn State, 3-0 in the second round.
“We always talk about tradition and how in this program we’ve always had a winning tradition,” senior outside hitter Alaina Turner said. “And if we do have a loss, that’s not who we are and that’s not who Dayton volleyball is, so we just use that as motivation to bring us back to where we should be.”
The Flyers have won the A-10 regular season championship title 11 times, and have won the A-10 championship tournament title nine times. The team has also made 10 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, all since 2003, going as far as the second round.
The Flyers will host two tournaments at the Frericks Center this season. The Dayton Invitational will take place from Sept. 11-12, with Cleveland State, Eastern Illinois and Baylor joining Dayton in the field.
This will be an interesting invitational for the team, as they did not play Eastern Illinois or Baylor last season. The Flyers lost to Cleveland State, 3-1, last season, so there is an opportunity to win that match this year.
“For us, it is just [about] playing the best we can play against whoever we play and at the highest level, and that we continue to improve throughout this season,” Head coach Tim Horsmon said.
The Flyers will also be hosting the UD Flyer Invitational on Sept. 18-19. This invitational will include Eastern Michigan, Illinois State and Jacksonville. The Flyers defeated Jacksonville last season during the Radisson Invitational, 3-0.
This year’s team has five returning seniors, including Turner, who was named the A-10 Player of the Year in 2014, and five returning sophomores.
“What an exceptional returning group [it is] that we have,” Horsmon said. “I think that you couldn’t ask for a better group in terms of shaping that big group of freshman for us and showing them how we do things here, and how lucky they are to be at a school like this and at a program that [is] as supported as it is.”
This will be Turner’s last season with the Flyers. Turner began her career at UD in 2012 where she ranked third on the team in kills as a first year. She was a member of the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team in 2012, and was named to the Dayton Flyer Classic All-Tournament Team in the same season. She was also named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and to the AVCA Midwest All-Region Team following last season.
From Canton, Michigan, Turner most recently won the A-10 Championship Most Outstanding Player award and has over 1,000 kills in her career. Despite being unable to play in 2013 due to an injury, Turner has been a consistent player for the Flyers and was ranked sixth nationally in kills last season.
With Turner graduating this year along with four other players, it will be interesting to see who steps up as a leader out of the new, and existing, players on the roster.
The team is adding eight newcomers, seven first years and transfer Megan Giardina, from Clemson, to the roster. Giardina will have three years of eligibility remaining. This incoming talent boasts the tallest player on the team, Brianna Pittman, at 6-foot-5.
“We have an exceptional group of kids in our program, including a couple seniors from last year. They work really hard. They embrace that work ethic that we ask. They’re a smart group, super competitive and it was really easy to coach them,” Horsmon said.
The newcomers to the team include three players from Ohio. Outside hitter Lauren Bruns, middle blocker Brittany Reynolds and defensive specialist/libero Margo Wolf are Ohio natives, hailing from Versailles, Gahanna and Cincinnati, respectively.
In addition to changes on the team, the Frericks Center, home of the Flyers, underwent renovations.
Just last year, the Olsen Athletics Performance Center was opened. Connected to the Frericks Center, it provides an upgraded training facility for student-athletes to work out and train in.
The Frericks Center renovation includes new locker rooms, new bleachers and a new entrance. The renovations are expected to be completed in time for the Flyers’ first home match, on Sept.11, against Baylor.
“I’m glad. I think they have worked hard for it, and again we have a great administration that continues to try and work improve our facilities and do whatever they can to help us,” Horsmon said.