Long wait for season about to end for Dayton Flyers volleyball

Dayton Volleyball vs Rhode Island: Jamie Peterson in action. Photo by Erik Schelkun

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Dayton Volleyball vs Rhode Island: Jamie Peterson in action. Photo by Erik Schelkun

Team will start shortened season in February with goal of playing in NCAA tournament in April

Dayton Flyers volleyball coach Tim Horsmon didn’t have to have the conversation with his players other UD coaches have had since the pandemic shut the sports world down in the spring.

The Dayton men’s and women’s programs saw their NCAA tournament dreams cancelled. All of Dayton’s spring athletes lost the majority of their seasons. The football team saw its fall season derailed and was told earlier this month they won’t play in the spring even if the Pioneer Football League does have a season.

The Dayton volleyball team — as well as the soccer, golf, cross country and tennis teams — saw its fall season cancelled but it will play that season in 2021. Sometime late last fall, when the announcement of the NCAA volleyball tournament moving to April was made, Horsmon was able to tell his players they would get a season after all — about six months later than normal.

“I know our kids were excited, especially our upperclassmen who are probably counting down how many years they have left,” Horsmon said Tuesday.

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Dayton players returned to campus Jan. 15 and started practicing last week. They will play an exhibition match against Louisville on Feb. 6 and then travel to Saint Louis the following week for two matches against the Billikens.

Those are the first of 10 Atlantic 10 Conference matches. The league will split into two divisions for the 2021 season with Dayton playing schools in its geographic area: Saint Louis; Duquesne; Davidson; and Virginia Commonwealth.

The top two teams in each division will advance to the A-10 tournament, which will be held April 2-3 on the campus of the highest seed. The conference champion will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, which will have 48 teams instead of 64. Dayton has played in the NCAA tournament five times in the last six seasons and 14 times since 2003, and it hopes to get there again.

The Flyers were named the preseason favorite in the A-10 last week, receiving eight of the 10 first-place votes with Virginia Commonwealth receiving the other two.

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The Flyers finished 22-9 and 13-1 in the A-10 in 2019 and return Jamie Peterson, the 2019 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, and Amelia Moore, the A-10 Rookie of the Year.

“If we get healthy and can stay healthy, I think we have a lot of good players in the gym,” Horsmon said. “Amelia Moore, our 6-5 middle, had a great year last year. Jamie Peterson has the ability to be an All- American again this year. (Libero) Maura Collins is playing really, really well, at an elite level. Bridget Doherty is playing really well in the setter position. We have a lot of great returners. We have some really highly-touted incoming freshmen. It’s been a fun mix so far.”

Dayton did get some work done in the fall. It held practices outside at times because of the COVID-19 situation and focused on individual skills in small groups.

“I think we got better,” Horsmon said. “I think our kids were great during that time. They understood what we were up against and the challenges of it. But we didn’t get to play (matches), and I’m sure they’re missing that part. If you’re going to get better at playing volleyball, you have to play volleyball.”

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