The 2010-11 SLCC women’s volleyball team is ranked #2 in the nation, and is stacked with promising talent. The Bruins recently finished the preseason with a nearly unblemished 18-1 record, their only loss coming to Miami-Dade College, now the #1 ranked team in national polls.
“The wins we’ve had have been tough wins,” said SLCC head volleyball coach Sue Dulaney. “There hasn’t been anybody that we’ve really just rolled over. We’ve had an incredible preseason, and it was kind of built that way to give us a taste of where we’re at in regards to other teams in the country.”
Dulaney is well aware that she’s got loads of skill on her roster. Even established starters can expect to have a seat on the bench if they don’t bring their best, and they’re well aware of it.
“I love Sue-she plays to win,” said SLCC outside hitter Ame’ (Ah-may) White, second on the team with 209 kills so far this year. “She’ll put the six players in that want to win.”
Half of SLCC’s 16-player roster is made up of sophomores, who play a key role in the success of the team. Dulaney and her staff rely heavily on their second year players to be vocal and take the leadership roles that are left behind with the two-year program turnover.
“The loudest would probably be Ame’ White,” said Dulaney, who is in her third year as head coach of Bruins volleyball. “When she’s on fire, you can see it. Coaches that scout us really love her energy.”
White, a modest 5-feet-7-inches tall, hails from Murray High School and is from right here in Salt Lake City. She’s played volleyball since age 14, and has the leadership sense to know what makes this Bruins team a powerhouse.
“Our biggest strength is that we go hard or we go home,” said White. White is a sophomore at SLCC, and has the second most kills on the team with 209. “We don’t play safe, we don’t like to hit the ball soft—we pound it or not at all.”
Dulaney has other leaders to turn to, and they’re not all sophomores. “I think Kelly Turner, a freshman, is also a really vocal leader for us out on the floor,” she said. Turner, from Huntington Beach, California, is also an outside hitter for the Bruins and has 20 aces early in the season.
“I grew up as a cheerleader, so I’m very loud,” said Turner, one of the tallest Bruins, standing at 6-foot-2. “I look at my teammates and see what I can do to help them—and I know I just need to work hard all of the time.”
The Bruins seem to have depth and game-changing talent at almost every position, and the awards and accolades are already pouring in to support that thought. Shelbi Zaldain, another Bruin big-hitter, was named Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) Player of the Week back on Sept. 3 for her performance in the SLCC Tournament.
“Shelbi just has an energy about her,” said Dulaney. “She just loves to play, and she gets along with everybody. We moved her from an outside hitter to a right side hitter this past year.”
As with most athletes, it took Zaldain a while to grow comfortable in her new position. Dulaney and her staff had to do a bit of prodding to get her where she’s at, but it’s paying off for all parties involved.
“We had to convince her a little bit, but I think she’s found where she needs to be,” said Dulaney, a Wisconsin graduate. “She’s getting stronger—she’s one of our captains, so obviously the team sees someone that they can go to, and someone that’s a team player.”
Erika Charry, SLCC middle-hitter, was also selected as the SWAC Volleyball Player of the Week on Sept. 19, after smashing 28 kills in 60 tries with only 3 errors. Charry’s sister Catalina also plays on the team as a setter. The two are from Valle, Columbia, and are key components of the Bruin offense.
“I think we’re fundamentally pretty sound. We run a quick offense, and I think that ball control is huge in order to run a quick offense,” said Dulaney. “We serve aggressively, and those are just mainstays that were here before I got here—I’ve kinds kept those things in place…an if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of thing.”
Coach Dulaney calls herself fortunate to have an excellent coaching staff beside her, and credits her two assistants with a lot of the success she’s having at SLCC.
“My staff is just phenomenal, Joe Hillman does so much for us on the court—he’s very technical,” said Dulaney. “He has a great personality, gets along with everybody and he really knows when to push.” Hillman is in his fifth year at SLCC.
The Bruins also have a volunteer assistant coach, who Dulaney considers a very valuable acquisition. Norm Potter, in his first year, has implemented some new wrinkles that Dulaney feels are beneficial.
“Norm has brought some elements into the game that I’ve thought about doing,” said Dulaney. “He’s like—hey, let’s time the block, let’s see how they’re doing, and it’s really giving the girls a lot more data. It’s great, [our staff] has kinda become our own little family.”
The Bruin family unit recently returned home to open conference play over the weekend. SLCC took on the College of Eastern Utah (CEU) Golden Eagles on Friday night, and won in four sets despite a valiant comeback effort from CEU. Friday night was Breast Cancer Awareness Night, and a solid turnout of about 150 pink clad fans helped cheer the Bruins to victory.
SLCC had another contest the following afternoon, Saturday at 3pm in Bruin Arena. They took on the Colorado Northwest Community College (CNCC), and skewered the then 1-11 Lady Spartans in three sets, 25-8, 25-11, 25-16.
SLCC Bruins volleyball is rolling, having won 16 matches in a row. SLCC is 20-1, and 2-0 in conference play. Coach Dulaney is confident that her team can make a legitimate push for a national title this year.
“In regards to our team, our goals are to win the SWAC again, to host regionals because we love hosting, and to earn another trip to nationals,” she said.
Fans can catch live coverage of every Bruins home game on Comcast channel 17, MCC Radio streaming online at radio.slcc.edu, and a live web feed is available at slcc.edu/slcctv. Statistics, results, schedules, stories and more are all available at slccbruins.com.