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Outside Hitter Never Looked So Good...Talent, Experience & Depth - Part 3 of 4
Outside Hitter Never Looked So Good...Talent, Experience & Depth - Part 3 of 4
Published by BeckysTXA
Outside Hitter Never Looked So Good...Talent, Experience & Depth - Part 3 of 4

This will be my 16th season following Flyer Volleyball and never have I seen the depth and talent at Outside Hitter like Dayton has this year. Plus, Coach Tim Horsmon is entertaining using Amelia Moore on the outside because we are also deep at Middle Blocker. Depending on what offense Horsmon decides to employ, the nine hitters are competing for three or four rotation slots.

“It’s a solid group of pin hitters for sure,” said Horsmon. “We believe we can win with different combinations of these players on the floor. It’s been awhile since we’ve had two really good six-rotation hitters and I think we have that in Jamie and Lex.”

As deep as this team is on the outside, it’s fair to say the team will need big performances from the two returning All-Americans, Jamie Peterson (JPete) and Lexie Almodovar (Lex). This will be JPete’s final season as a Flyer. With a healthy and successful season, she can become the third Flyer Volleyball player to garner All-American honors for 3 years. The previous two were Lindsey Fletmeier from 2008-2010 and I believe Faye Barhorst from 2004-2006. (Barhorst bios were not available online, but from memory I believe she was honored three years.) As a point of reference, there are only six players nationwide that are 4-time AAs.

“Jamie gets better every year and is a joy to coach,” continued Horsmon. “She’s balanced real world and college volleyball and has done a wonderful job in both arenas. Jamie’s confindent was always her challenge and I think last year was a great season for her to figure out how good she actually is and to go have fun. She played much more loosely and led throughout the year. She will keep adding little things to her game and we’re going to enjoy her last season as a Flyer and have some fun.”

After a two-year hiatus from playing, in 2019 JPete returned to the court and moved from the right side to the left plus started playing six rotations. As a fan observing from the stands, she was our best player, but maybe a little hesitant to step into the leadership role that first year back. That changed last year.

“Jamie took a huge step up in terms of leadership (last year),” Horsmon declared. “She is just maturing and becoming more confident by the day. Her teammates respect her and she works hard in practice and in the weight room and demonstrates the qualities that a great player should have when so many other players are watching her.”

One of those players watching JPete was Lex who was the biggest surprise last season. At 5’8” she defies all logic at this level of elite DI play and shocked everyone with her ability to terminate balls. During the abbreviated regular season, she only played against half the A10 teams, plus Xavier and Wright State. But then she took her tenacity and talents to the NCAA and ended up the talk of Omaha the first weekend. That was enough for Volleyball Magazine to name her to its Honorable Mention All-American list. As Chris R. pointed out in a tweet, she was one of only ten freshmen players last year to be named All-American by any award group.

“We knew Lex was a great player and I believe she led the state of Indiana in kills in high school in one of her seasons,” Horsmon revealed. “Lex may hit the ball as hard as anyone I’ve ever coached and is a good jumper and gets off of the deck. In spite of all these great qualities we definitely recruited her as a libero and not an outside hitter.

“What I’ve learned after 21 years of coaching is that I still must not know too much about this game,” he joked. “I like long athletes but Lex has such a great feel for scoring. She is beyond competitive and best of all she’s fearless. She played for Mike Lingenfelter at Munciana (VB Club) and I think they are one of the best programs in the country. They prepare kids for college ball as well as anyone I’ve seen. I tease Lex about being 5’4” and we just found out our little ‘Libero’ touched over 10’ this summer.”

Lex also has “great genes” according to Horsmon. Her mother was a good basketball player in her era and her Dad played volleyball at IPFW. According to Horsmon, he is one of the great men’s volleyball players to come out of Puerto Rico. The Flyers have had players in the past with mothers that played and coached the game, but it’s believed Lex is the first player with a dad who played college volleyball.

During the second half of last season, Lex started taking swings out of the back row in her six-rotation assignment. As a freshman, going six rotations can be overwhelming. Usually it’s the defensive digs and serve receive that proves most challenging, but she was recruited for those skills. So her challenge was to swing and score during her three rotations in the back.

“We need Lex to be great (for six rotations) and I think she will be much improved this Fall,” Horsmon said. “We didn’t have a lot of time to work on all the things we usually work on in the Spring because of COVID, but I think she will end up being a great point scorer out of the back row.”

After being named A10 ROY three seasons ago, Alli Papesh spent her sophomore year playing with a wrapped shoulder most matches and seeking a doctor’s approval to play many weeks. She was still healing last year at this time and working to get back on the court. This past off-season she had additional surgery, this time on a knee, but Horsmon says she is in a good place to be ready to play more this season.

“Alli is raring to go but we are waiting for some healing as she had her knee cleaned out this summer,” he explained. “She was great in coming back last Spring and I was really proud of her maturity and leadership during a tough time for her. She was great and made people around her better every day in practice.

“Alli has been an all-conference player as a three-rotation hitter and we are all hoping she gets healthy and is ready for her senior year,” he continued. “I know we will need her this season to be the best version we can be to compete.”

Mahalia Swink transferred to UD last season as a graduate student and wanted to return for a COVID year. She was our starting right side hitter this past Spring.

“We’re excited to have her back. She was a great addition to our team last year and brought a lot of great qualities to our team on and off the court,” Horsman proclaimed. “She is a really solid passer and blocker as an opposite and we are excited to continue to work with her as she grows in the attacking portion of her game.”

Junior Grace Dynda has contributed to the program the last two years in spot roles, most notably as a serving specialist and occasionally on the front row as a hitter. “Grace has steadily improved and could give us time whenever we need her,” said Horsmon. “ She continues to get better on the ball control side and is a natural point scorer. We will see how far she has come along this summer with physicality and I think that will dictate the time she gets on the court. Either way she makes us better. She always has a smile on her face and is a team favorite for sure.”

Redshirt Junior Mik Van Lanen has been injured every year the last three seasons. But when she has been healthy, she has seen playing time and helped the program. She has started matches in the past, but again last year she was on the sideline with her arm in a sling.

“We were hoping Mik would be ready from her shoulder surgery but (right now we are) unsure where she will be this Fall,” Horsmon explained. “We thought she could provide quality depth for us but will see how fast she heals and works at getting that shoulder right. We are unsure when we will have her back at this point.”

The final two OHs are incoming freshman Lia Hawkens, the first player from the state of Washington to play for the Flyers and Ohio native Taylor Russell. Both received post season awards at the high school level. However, due to COVID there was no club season this past year and therefore this freshman class was never ranked as players.

“We have two talented freshmen in Taylor and Lia and are anxious to see how quickly they figure out our system and the speed of the game,” Horsmon continued. “We like both players and they are very athletic and jump well with good arms. I think they will both be challenged with their ball control early, but as that improves, look out.”

Ahh, yes. It always comes back to how well a team can control the ball and make that pass to the setter. Then you have to serve aggressively so your opponent can’t control the ball and struggles to get a good pass to their setter.

The Flyers are deep, talented and experienced this year. Their Head Coach is planning to maximize the player skills and talents in creative ways to put the best combination on the floor to win matches. It might not be the same lineup from match to match. Horsmon has been creative before. Back in 2007, he used a single player in serve receive, the only time I’ve ever seen that in a match. Last year he used blocking specialist. Again, very rarely seen in college volleyball.

This year’s team will be challenged early with one heck of a tough schedule. You can get a jump on the season on Saturday, August 21 at 4 pm when the Flyers host #13 Louisville in an exhibition match on Hausfeld Court at the Frericks Center. The Cardinals return almost everyone and led the nation in blocks per set last season – a good test for our young setters competing to win the duties. We’ve played Louisville the last three seasons, so the teams are familiar and the exhibition match is a great test before the National Champions Kentucky Wildcats come to town the next week.

“We have a great group of middles and attackers in general,” Horsmon concluded. “We love the ability of our pins to pass and play defense and they will compete to play all six rotations. I think this group of back row players is really strong and what I think is going to happen is that we are going to have a really competitive preseason and we’ll figure out how this whole thing plays out.

“We are believers in ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ and we will benefit from a great group of young women who work their tails off to make this program one of the best in the country.”
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