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USU opening volleyball season with match against Pacific

SHARE USU opening volleyball season with match against Pacific

Utah State’s volleyball team will officially begin its 2011 season today when it faces Pacific at 4:30 p.m. in the Crystal Inn Thunderbird Invitational hosted by Southern Utah University. USU will then play a pair of matches on Saturday against Drake and the host T-Birds at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.

Live stats and video for the three Utah State matches will be available via Southern Utah’s website, www.suutbirds.com.

Utah State is 6-28 all-time against Pacific and 1-0 against Southern Utah, while its match against Drake will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

In season openers, Utah State is 17-18 all-time, including wins in four of its last six years. USU is also 48-44 in regular season tournaments during the past 11 years, including a 35-24 mark on neutral courts.

Utah State, which is picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference this season according to the league’s coaches, welcomes back three starters and six letter-winners from last year's team that finished 24-9 on the season and in third-place in the league with a 9-7 mark. USU also won its first-ever WAC Tournament in 2010 and advanced to its fourth-ever NCAA Tournament.

Highlighting Utah State's group of returners is senior outside hitter Liz McArthur (St. George, Utah), who earned honorable mention All-American honors as a junior after being named first-team all-WAC and the Most Valuable Player of the WAC Tournament. McArthur ended the season ranked 32nd in the nation in points (4.59) and 34th in kills (4.00) per set.

Utah State's two other returning starters are a pair of outside/opposite side hitters in juniors Shay Sorensen (North Odgen, Utah) and Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah). Sorensen averaged 2.20 kills and 0.81 blocks as a sophomore, while White averaged 2.41 kills, 1.87 digs and 0.94 blocks per set.

McArthur, Sorensen and White were all-named to the WAC's 12-member 2011 preseason team.

Other returnees include junior libero Laurel Bodily (Idaho Falls, Idaho), junior setter Kassi Hargrove (Reno, Nev.), and sophomore outside hitter Tumua Etimani (Richardson, Texas). USU will also have the services of three redshirts this fall in sophomore middle blocker Nicole Gneiting-Theurer (Las Vegas, Nev.), freshman opposite side hitter Jamaica Alisa (St. George, Utah) and freshman setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.).

Along with its six returning letter-winners and three redshirts, Utah State welcomes eight newcomers to the program, including six freshmen who were ranked in the top 55 recruiting classes in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com.

Fans can follow USU volleyball at http://twitter.com/USUVolleyball and Utah State athletics at http://twitter.com/USUAthletics.