Fast-Starting Volleyball Teams Split Team Of The Week Award
Simon Fraser (left) and Saint Martin's (right) were named Co-Teams of the Week after each going 4-0 at their respective tournaments.
Simon Fraser (left) and Saint Martin's (right) were named Co-Teams of the Week after each going 4-0 at their respective tournaments.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

It was a strong opening week across the board for the GNAC in women’s volleyball, but two teams stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Based on their 4-0 starts that represented massive leaps forward for their respective programs, Simon Fraser and Saint Martin’s volleyball have been named GNAC Co-Teams of the Week.

Although it had been over 21 months since their last competitive match, Simon Fraser showed no signs of rust, traveling to San Diego for the Seaside Invitational and knocking off several formidable West Region opponents.

The crown jewel of Simon Fraser’s week was a four-set win over then-No. 3 Cal State San Bernardino, the defending national champions from 2019, but they also defeated two teams that received votes in the preseason poll in Azusa Pacific and Cal State LA, as well as beating tournament host Point Loma.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of depth this year and our wins on the road this past weekend were a total team effort,” head coach Gina Schmidt said. “We weren’t able to compete at all last year, so we spent a lot of time trying to improve technically and tactically at all positions. All that work is now showing up on the court.”

Freshman opposite and GNAC Offensive Player of the Week Brooke Dexter was key to the win over Cal State San Bernardino, contributing 24 kills, nine digs and two blocks. For the tournament, Dexter averaged 4.62 kills and 2.88 digs per set. As a team, SFU’s .257 hitting percentage and 13.75 kills per set both lead the conference, while their 11.94 assists per set come in second-best.

As a result of their series of statement wins, Simon Fraser joined the national rankings in the September 6 AVCA Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 24 and receiving three first-place votes.

Saint Martin’s also had a 4-0 week at the Yellowjacket Invitational in Billings. The Saints beat MSU Moorhead in three sets and South Dakota Mines in four sets Friday and topped Black Hills State in five sets and Bemidji State in four sets Saturday. The victory over Black Hills State required Saint Martin’s to come back from a two-set deficit.

The hot start is a massive achievement for Saints Coach Dan Behnke, in his first full season at the helm after taking charge shortly before the pandemic in 2020. SMU went 1-28 in 2019, before Behnke’s arrival, and 1-5 in the shortened spring 2021 season.

“It was certainly a great start for us, but we know there’s a lot to improve upon and the schedule only gets tougher,” Behnke said. “We responded well to adversity and hope to use that experience in the coming months.”

Freshman outside hitter Tia Allen took home the tournament MVP award, averaging 3.62 kills, 3.31 digs and 0.62 blocks per set. Her best single-game performance came against Bemidji State, where she tallied 21 kills, 13 digs, three aces and two blocks. Junior libero Kylie Alos also won all-tourney honors in addition to being named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week, finishing with 20 or more digs in three out of the four Saints matches and averaging 5.56 per set.

As a team, SMU leads the GNAC with 12 assists and 19.56 digs per set, while holding their opponents to a .049 hitting percentage.

Next week, Simon Fraser will play three times in Seattle at the CWU/SPU invitational, taking on Biola next Friday and facing St. Cloud State and Hawaii Pacific Saturday. Saint Martin’s will head to Hawaii for four matchups with Hawaii Hilo (twice), Cal State East Bay and Chaminade.