June 21, 2024

SWAC champions

The Utah State Eastern Eagles volleyball team captured

their first-ever Scenic West Athletic Conference championship

with a 3-0 win over Colorado Northwestern Community

College in Rangely.

The Eagles finished the regular season 19-7 overall, 8-2 in

conference play, ranked ninth in the country, and are almost

certain to go to the national tournament in Hutchison, Kansas

for the second straight year.

There wasn’t much hope for the Eagles weeks ago after a

loss at home to Salt Lake Community College. But they finished

with six straight conference wins, including a huge road win

in a hostile environment against No. 3 SLCC.

“This championship is huge for our program,” Coach

Danielle Jensen said. “This is something we’ve worked on

for quite a while now. Our team made it a goal to accomplish

a championship this year.”

But she said that after the early loss to SLCC the team

had to reevaluate. “The girls knew what we needed to do and

weren’t content with not finishing strong. They’re not going to

settle like past teams and back down, and we’re going to work.”

The team was riding a five-game win streak heading to

Colorado. The Eagles were heavy favorites and they didn’t

disappoint. They dominated, winning 25-14, 25-16, and 25-16,

sweeping the Spartans.

Sophomore hitter Sunny Perry had another impressive

performance with 11 kills and a .320 hitting percentage. She

wasn’t alone. Middle blocker Lindsey Otero had nine kills with

a .500 hitting percentage. Setter Ashley McUne showed off

her passing with 23 assists, and defensive star Emma Ricks

had 22 digs to lead the way defensively.

“These players never give up,” Jensen said. “They’re so

good at looking at themselves and looking for things that they

are doing wrong. Sometimes other teams like to make excuses

for why they lose games, like winning is luck. We don’t do

that here, and you have to be able to look at yourself and figure

out what your weaknesses are. This team has really worked

on the mental side.”

USUE will travel to Rangely, Colorado, November 5-6

to compete in the SWAC Region 18 conference tournament

hosted by Colorado Northwestern CC. It will be a a six-team

single-elimination format. The champion Eagles will have

top seed and a first-round bye. They will play the winner of

College of Southern of Idaho vs. College of Southern Nevada

in the semi-finals, and the winner of that game will go to the

championship on November 6th. They would not face No. 2

seed SLCC until then.

USUE’s strong performance during the regular season

almost guarantees a spot in the NJCAA Division I tournament

in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Eagles second-straight appearance.

However the spot isn’t assured if they have a poor showing in

the SWAC Tournament.

The national tournament features 16 of the finest NJCAA

volleyball teams from throughout the country. They will fight

for National Champion at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. If the

Eagles can somehow win the SWAC tournament, they will be

top seed at the NJCAA tournament. Last season USUE lost in

the semi-finals against the eventual champions Iowa Western.

The team is healthy, the chemistry is at an all-time high,

and of course, they have talent.