The Salt Lake Community College women’s volleyball team is ready to defend their Region 18 title and set to spike their return to the national tournament.
“We have a lot of talent coming back, as well as some really talented freshmen coming in. There is no reason we won’t be right there again at the end of the season,” said Head Coach Sue Dulaney.
The Bruins are looking to improve on their fourth place finish at last season’s national tournament. They lost a lot of depth from last year’s team and are returning only five players from last season’s squad.
International talent leads the way
Three of the Bruins returners are back to Salt Lake from outside the U.S. Mariana Pilon and Carol Grasso return to the Bruins from Sao Paulo. Ailin Donati is returning from Rome.
Grasso returns after a tremendous freshman season, during which she collected her fair share of hardware. She was named AVCA First Team All-American, NJCAA First Team All-American, and Region 18 MVP.
“Carol is back and she will carry an enormous load for us. We need to try and find a way to take some of the pressure off of her,” said Dulaney.
Last season Grasso led the Bruins with 500 kills, 56 service aces, and was second on the team with 417 digs.
Pilon started off slow last season, but really stepped-up and had a big NJCAA Tournament.
“Mariana had a great spring. She has figured out what we need her to do for us to win. She has also grown into a leadership role,” said Dulaney.
Pilon finished with 15 kills in the 3rd place game last season.
Top setter returns from injury
Donati played really well until tearing her ACL right before conference play began.
“Ailin is back from ACL surgery. She has a lot to prove and she is on fire right now,” Dulaney said about her sophomore setter.
Donati still ended the season with 276 assists, enough to rank second on the team.
Two other sophomores return for the Bruins. Middle hitter Sequoia Lofton is back from Spokane and defensive specialist Alyssa Koki returns from Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
Large freshman class to have immediate impact
While they do have players returning with some great experience, the team needs the freshmen to hit the ground running for a schedule that includes the top three finishers from last season’s NJCAA National Tournament.
The incoming freshmen include seven players from Utah: Brooke Bergstrom and Rachel Davis from Riverton, Mckell Moss from Layton, Leah Peacock from North Logan, Sadie Pond from Herriman, Jessica Quayle from West Warren, and Brighton Taylor from Bountiful.
SLCC also added three players from around the west: Cassandra Fenton from California, Penny Gwynn from Montana, and Kallie Schmit from Washington.
The Bruins will kick off their home schedule with the Crystal “Inn”vitational, Aug. 29-30. All Bruins home matches are played inside Bruin Arena on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. You can listen live to all home matches on Radio SLCC and keep checking the Globe for updates on the team.