Season outlook: Defense will be the difference

Early last season the Thunderbirds started off strong. Coach Angel Sharman is looking to continue that tradition for this year. Last year, the T-Birds started 4-0 and finished 22-18 and lost in the championship game of the Region IX tournament.

Last year’s efforts landed two Thunderbirds on the all-region team and four on the all tournament team (Madison Legerski, Ashley Seiler, Alicia Hedlund, and Kacie Chinen all earned post-season honors).

“I would like this year’s team to start thesame way. We have some challenges from being young,” Sharman said.

The team will start the season with another tough schedule this year, playing top preseason ranked teams that will challenge them from day one. “We will need to find that team leadership,” Sharman said. “Along with that we need to communicate well on the floor.”

The T-Birds return just one starter in sophomore middle hitter Isidora Markovic from Trstenik, Serbia. Hailey Sapiro (Indio, California) is the only other sophomore that saw playing time.

Sharman expects incoming freshman Sydney Nielsen (Kamloops, B.C.) a 5’11' outside hitter; Precious Atafua (Auburn, Washington), a 5’10' outside; and Briana Halemanu (Honolulu), 6’ middle, “will show some big play at the net.” Defense will be strong with Shelby McFerrin (Gillette, Wyoming) and Alyssa Earl (Casper).

The T-Birds will have a little height in the setter position. Freshman McKaylie Tanner (Salt Lake City) 5’11" and Breanna Mason (Billings, Montana) 5’10" will replace the setting position.

“We feel that this is a great freshman recruiting class. They are all capable of doing great things and we will have a difficult time deciding how to put players in the right position to make us great. This freshman group is going to be fun to watch and they are going to be very competitive, but they are going to need to grow fast,” said Sharman.

“I think we’re going to be a lot stronger defensively, but we might not be as tall as we have been in the past,” Sharman noted. “It’s a lot different from years past, but it’s something that we’re going to have to get used to."

“I’m excited for this group and our goal is to be in the hunt for the regional tournament.”


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