Utah State Eastern has become the dominating team others aspire to beat. With a new standard, these women actively engage themselves in the pursuit of excellence both on the court, in the weight room, and throughout their academic rigors. Ranked 12th in the nation, the team traveled over the weekend to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to compete in its first 2021 tournament.
It has been a journey to be where they are today. Beginning in 2020, five standout returning players were sent home due to the COVID Pandemic. The other nine freshmen had seasons canceled, graduation delays and obstacles sprinkled in as the world shut down. During this time, gyms closed and human contact was discouraged. Eastern’s team had to get creative with workout equipment and a means to meet.
From milk jugs to bench-pressing siblings, this resilient team had the fire of enthusiasm burning in their heart. Some coming to college for the first time and others for their second year, COVID and all other accompanying obstacles could not get in the way. These teammates started working out in February 2020 and sent weekly videos to their coaches getting feedback about their form and how preparation was looking.
Kahea Nihipali, a returning player on the team, said, “I am from Las Vegas, and although everything was at a stand still for so long, I made volleyball my priority. I knew exactly what I needed to do and what I was going to do. I was going to grind and use the time I was given to come back better than ever.”
Kamryn Wiese’s preparation took her to a new level. “In preparing to come play here, I made sure I was putting the work I needed, to be at the level that I am now. That also meant taking the time to improve my nutrition. It takes a lot to be here, however, it was the little things that made all the difference in the long run.”
Hitting obstacle after obstacle, the whole team came in contact with the Corona virus fall semester. Many were moved into different rooms and the team quarantined over a two-week span. But, despite the sickness and many injuries the women came in contact with, they kept pursuing the dream of playing their season.
Going into this last weekend, the team made many strides. USUE volleyball made a statement starting with beating Otero, the 11th- ranked college team in the nation. The team went three and one, receiving national recognition. Wiese came out of the tournament having the third most kills, Sunny Perry as the fourth most kills, and Emma Ricks having the second most digs in the nation.
USUE women’s volleyball won three of the four sets with Otero, three of three with McCook, three of three with Trinidad, and two for five with WNCC. Altogether a solid finish to the tournament. Nesreen Iskanrani, the assistant coach commented, “I think the team started off this season on a high note this weekend. Everyone this weekend contributed to our outstanding performance. I’m so proud of the girls and the season ahead of us.”
And it doesn’t stop there, these athletes display enthusiasm beyond measure. Watching the games, the Eastern team was the loudest in the gym, had different cheers for each player when they did something good and each one looked as though they had the time of their lives. This week, they are competing against nationally ranked teams in the Sam and Louie’s Pizza tournament.