The Utah State Eastern volleyball team’s historic season came to a close on Friday after losing in the Region XVIII Tournament Semifinals in Ephraim. The Eagles fell to the top seeded and the eventual tournament champion College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles 3-1.
In the beginning of the game, the Eagles opened up with a very strong first set and went down to the wire with CSI but ultimately loss the set 25-22. The Eagles would struggle in the second set as CSI would score 15 kills and win the set 25-18.
Eastern would rally in third set and take down CSI 25-22 to pick up their first set win of the season against Golden Eagles.
Ultimately, CSI would prevail and move on to the Region XVIII championship with a 25-20 fourth set win.
USU Eastern head coach Danielle Jensen said that Friday’s game against CSI was the best game she has seen her team play this year.
“It was one of the best, if not the best game we have played all season. Everything we have worked at this season finally came together in the game, it was a very proud moment for me as their coach,” said Jensen.
After the game, sophomore Sidney Springer said her team came into the game with the right mindset but fell short of advancing to the final championship game.
“We went into the game knowing we had nothing to lose and everybody was locked in, all the pressure was on them. We played great, just wish it would have ended a little different,” said Springer.
Sophomore Jaelyn Olsen said that she was proud of her team’s performance in her final game as an Eagle.
“I was so proud of my team and how hard we fought, we proved what we’ve been doing all season, that we are a team to contend with,” said Olsen.
Jensen said that multiple players stepped up to have career highs and each of one her players had a role in the team’s performance.
“It was a true team effort. From my back row passing like crazy to Aggie setting better than I have ever seen to our hitters putting the ball away, it was a fun game for us to play in,” said Jensen.
Against the Golden Eagles, Springer led the team in kills with 14. She also had 14 digs along with two assists.
Freshman libero Megan Gurr had a team-high 21 digs to go with two assists.
Sophomore setter Agatha Roese-Olsen led the team in assists with an impressive 37 assists against CSI.
With a career-high attack percentage of .563, sophomore Jaelyn Olsen had 10 kills, 2 blocks and 2 digs.
With the loss, the Eagles final record for the season is 18-10 with a 5-7 conference record.
The 2017 season showed many signs of improvement in the volleyball program despite not winning the Region XVIII championship.
Not only did the Eagles improve their record by eight wins in 2017, they were getting national attention and some players led the nation in certain statistical categories, something that makes Coach Jensen happy.
“I am very happy and please with what we accomplished this year. It was so exciting to watch this team progress and break records,” said Jensen.
Only one week of the regular season were the Eagles not ranked in the top 20 in the NJCAA National Poll. They reached as high as 13 in the poll in the second week of the season.
Roese-Olsen was ranked near the top of the assists category nationally and finished the season with 974 assists. She finished second in conference in assists behind Morgan Weatherwax of CSI.
Gurr led the country in digs for almost a month this season and finished with 501 digs.
On Friday night Gurr received the Region XVIII Conference Defensive Player of the Year award as voted on by coaches.
“Megan has been such a strength for our team defensively. She deserved the award hands down, just look at her stats, she put up some impressive numbers throughout the season,” said Jensen.
Also, receiving honors on Friday night were Springer, Roese-Olsen and Olsen. Springer was named to the All-Region XVIII first team while Olsen and Roese-Olsen were named Honorable Mention All-Region XVIII. Springer led the conference in kills with 340 and Gurr led the conference in digs in 2017.
Gurr believes that overall this season was a success not just for her but for the team as a whole.
“I feel like this season was a win for the team and the school, our team has turned some heads,” said Gurr.
Springer said that the teamwork and unity on the court was the key to success this season.
“We have so many amazing athletes and once we were able to mesh together and play as a team we were hard to beat, not only did we want to win but we expected to win big games,” said Springer.
Hard work and team effort, according to Olsen, was the reason for the results the Eagles had this year.
“Our key to success has been staying positive and always working on getting better. We came in the gym every day and worked our butts off to get to where we are,” said Olsen.
With the 2017 season over, Jensen said her program has barely scratched the surface as far as its potential.
“As a coach, I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish but I am never content with where we are and I am going to keep learning and finding ways to improve,” said Jensen.
The Eagles will now have a break before they start spring practices next year.
Coach Jensen said that she has a lot of plans for her team in the spring and is excited about next season including the return of four starters who played a huge part in this season’s success.
“I have four of my six starters returning and I cannot wait to see how they progress before the season and we have some great new recruits committed that will be great for our team. I love the progress of our program and I am ready to keep it rolling in 2018,” said Jensen.
In her two years at the helm of USU Eastern volleyball, Jensen has led the Eagles to a 28-27 overall record. The previous three seasons before her arrival last season, the program had a 27 wins’ total.
For more information about USU Eastern volleyball, check out their Facebook page at USU Eastern Women’s Volleyball.