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New Utah State volleyball coach Ginny Alexander and her young team will find out immediately how tough the Big West Conference can be Friday when they meet four-time defending-champion Long Beach at 3 p.m. MDT in the first of three weekend matches. The Aggies meet Kansas State at Long Beach at 1 p.m. MDT Saturday, then play the 49ers again at 6:30 p.m. MDT Saturday evening. Their home opener is Sept. 22 with the Big West's San Jose State.

Alexander is the seventh head volleyball coach in USU history and comes to the school with a 67-41 career record in three years as coach at Drexel and Temple. She replaces 1994 interim coach Leanne Zeek, whose team was 2-28, 1-17 in the Big West in a hastily established season following the firing of the former coaching staff.Alexander inherits two returning letter-winners, junior setter Kalei Arnold and sophomore middle hitter Jayne Hendrian, and returns middle hitter Gina Radford. There are no seniors, five juniors (Arnold, Sheralyn Gappmayer, Mindi Jackson, Radford and Laine Uluave), four sophomores (Jayme Hendrian, Trudy Rigby, Jeanna Tracy and Shanna Umpleby) and four freshmen (Niki Conner, Heather Day, Jessica Hafenfeld and Marsha Moulding). Day and Rigby did not travel to Long Beach.

Long Beach is also rebuilding after a 27-6, 16-2 title campaign. "Of course, their athletic ability is tremendous, and they're capable of crushing us," Alexander says. K-State returns five starters from a 14-13 team that was 3-9 in the Big Eight Conference.