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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL SPIKES WESTMINSTER, SLCC WITH ZEAL

After months of huddling with students and trustees, Westminster College and Salt Lake Community College have added "spike," "block" and "kill" to their campus playbooks.

Women's volleyball - touted as the fastest-growing sport at colleges nationwide - is coming to both schools in what for them is a significant second step into intercollegiate sports.At Westminster, it's the first major expansion of athletics since financial woes forced officials to scale back the program a decade ago. Faculty and students are pointing to women's volleyball as further evidence of the college's rebirth.

Marinda Ashman, who was just chosen to be the women's volleyball coach, said she sensed the enthusiasm as soon as she set foot on campus.

"I thought it was going to take a couple of years to get the program going, but the girls are really excited and motivated," Ashman said. "I think the student body will support it 100 percent, and it could spur the development of other athletic teams."

At SLCC, students voted overwhelmingly in favor of adding women's volleyball and men's baseball to the athletics program - currently limited to basketball - even if it means an increase in fees. Armed with the survey results, trustees last month authorized the addition of both sports. Lacking a baseball field, the college is expected to concentrate first on women's volleyball.

Student body president Yousuf Khanani said students are thrilled at the prospect of having an intercollegiate volleyball program.

"We have been talking about expanding the athletic program for years, and now it's going to happen," Khanani said. Volleyball is a good place to start, he added, because of its popularity. "There are a lot of teams in the area."

The decision was not an easy one for SLCC, where some officials, including the athletic director, preferred women's softball over vol-ley-ball.

Herself a former softball coach, athletic director Norma Carr had argued that facilities were in place for women's softball, making it the more economical choice. However, she conceded that volleyball is emerging as a "very viable" sport.

"Pro teams have given it higher credibility especially since it was featured in the Olympics," Carr said. "I think the same thing will eventually happen to softball, which has been seen as a stepchild to baseball."

Tom Steinke, Westminster's athletic director, said a survey of small colleges in the region found that women's volleyball was the No. 1 sport. Convinced it's what the students wanted, Westminster picked volleyball to lead its expansion.

"This particular sport will do a lot for the campus," Steinke predicted. "There is a lot of interest in it from those who want to participate and spectators."

Ashman, a Jordan District school teacher who played volleyball for Brigham Young University, was selected two months ago to coach Westminster's new team. Ashman expects to have the "Lady Parsons" ready to play within a few months.

Westminster is scheduled to play its first game on home court Sept. 16 against Dixie College. Ten other games will follow, including matchups against University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Colorado College, Snow College, Rangely College, College of Eastern Utah, Albertson College and Northwest Nazarene.

Ashman said she had expected a somewhat more "marginal" inaugural schedule but isn't daunted by the competition.

"When we started, I wasn't sure we would win any games the first year. Now, after working with some of the girls, I feel we'll do better than decent. It's going to be really exciting," Ashman said.