The Dayton Flyers volleyball team started practice Friday with a focus on the foundation of the program: fundamentals.
“What we do,” coach Tim Horsmon said. “How we do it. Our culture. The work ethic. We don’t have a whole lot of time in the fall to get ready for a big first weekend.”
Three weeks after the first practice, Dayton opens the 2019 season at the Louisville Cardinal Classic from Aug. 30-Sept. 1, playing Texas A&M, Florida and Louisville. Like Dayton, Florida and Louisville played in the NCAA tournament last season. Three of Dayton’s other non-conference opponents — Michigan, Missouri and Cincinnati — also played in the tournament, as did Pittsburgh, which Dayton faces in an exhibition on Aug. 24 at the Frericks Center.
» LAST SEASON: Flyers return to top of A-10
It’s the type of schedule Dayton plays every year. The program won its 12th Atlantic 10 tournament last season — and fourth in five seasons — to claim the league’s automatic NCAA berth, but it likes to set itself up to earn an at-large berth in case it doesn’t win the A-10.
The early schedule, Horsmon said, “is big for us to show the nation we can play.”
The nation should know that. Dayton finished 23-8 last season and has won at least 20 matches in 16 of the last 18 years. Four starters return, including A-10 second-team selection Brooke Westbeld, a redshirt junior from Fairmont who plays setter and right-side hitter, and sophomore outside hitter Alli Papesh, the A-10 Rookie of the Year last season.
“We’ve done a pretty good job over a lot of years,” Horsmon said. “It should be interesting. We lost some really good seniors but have a great group coming back and high expectations.”
Dayton graduated three A-10 award winners: outside hitter Lauren Bruns, the A-10 Player of the Year; Margo Wolf, the A-10 Libero of the Year; and three-time A-10 first-team selection Kendyll Brown, who finished her career ranked second in school history in hitting percentage (.388).
» LOOKING BACK: Archdeacon on Horsmon returning to UD
“Bruns took so many big swings for us,” Horsmon said, “and was such an emotional leader. Kendyll Brown was the same. She was a point scorer but just a really good competitor and leader. Margo Wolf was probably one of the best passers and defenders I’ve had.”
Despite those losses, Horsmon said this team is as talented as any he’s had and said the team’s physicality will be a strength.
“It’s just a matter of learning how to win and playing together and competing mentally,” he said. “If we can do that, we’re going to do some good things, but we’re going to have to mature fast.”
Outside hitter Jamie Peterson, a West Liberty-Salem graduate, returns for her redshirt sophomore season after not playing the last two seasons. She made the A-10 all-rookie team as a freshman in 2016.
Among the new Flyers are: graduate student Rachael Fara, a middle blocker who played three seasons at Northwestern before transferring to Dayton in December; freshman setter Livie Sandt; and freshman outside hitter Grace Dynda
“We have confidence we’re going to be just as good with the incoming class along with some people who are back who were out before,” Westbeld said.
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