Volleyball team prepares for season with new players

The Weber State University volleyball team is preparing for its second season under Head Coach Tom Peterson.

Peterson said he thinks the team can perform well, despite the fact that the Wildcats this season are a young team. The team will be made up of a lot of newcomers, with seven new players joining the team.

“We’re going to be young this year, but we’re more athletic and more physical,” Peterson said. “I think we have a chance to surprise a lot of people.”

Two new players are transfer students to WSU. Audrey Biggs transferred to WSU from Wichita State University and Mariah Katoa transferred from Brigham Young University. Biggs, an outside hitter, is a Utah native who graduated from Pleasant Grove High School in 2009. Katoa redshirted at BYU, and still has four years of eligibility remaining.

Peterson said Biggs will add experience to WSU’s team.

“She brings good experience to our team, and is coming from a very strong Wichita State program that played in the NCAA tournament last year,” Peterson said. “She will have an opportunity to come in and compete for playing time quickly.”

Peterson said he also expects Katoa to be a valuable member of the team.

“We are very fortunate that she has chosen to transfer to our program,” Peterson said. “She comes from a wonderful family that also has a rich athletic background.”

Katoa is a versatile player, and Peterson said he is hesitant to classify her as one position, but that he wants to move her around he court and see where she does best.

While many players are new, WSU will see some core players return from last season. Anchoring the team will be senior setter Caitlin Penrod; senior middle blocker Dama Cox, who was named the 2011 Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year; junior outside hitter Briana Wilms, and junior outside hitter Shanae Burgin.

WSU opened its fall practice a few weeks ago, and played its first game of the season on Aug. 24 against the University of Portland during the Utah State Invitational in Logan.

WSU will then participate in the Cougar Challenge hosted by Washington State University, which will run from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1. WSU will start conference play on Sept. 14 against Southern Utah University. Peterson said he is expecting a challenging conference season.

“The competition within our conference is getting better,” Peterson said, “and both North Dakota and Southern Utah coming in this year make it even stronger.”

Peterson also said the non-conference schedule will help get the team ready for a challenging conference season.

“It is a good mixture of teams. We will be tested, and it will help us improve quickly.”

WSU was picked to finish 10th in the Big Sky this year, with the University of Northern Colorado picked to win the league.

Peterson said the players are hopeful they can qualify for the Big Sky tournament at the end of the season. The conference tournament will begin on Nov. 23 in Greeley, Colo.