Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Women’s volleyball team wants to make more history

The women of the DU volleyball team were busy making history last season, and they have been busy all summer preparing to do even more damage to the record books this year.

After being selected in last season’s preseason poll as the favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference west division, the Pioneers captured their second consecutive title, the fourth in program history. The team was also one of 71 NCAA Division I programs to earn the American Volleyball Coaches Association team academic award.

The team had a 16-1 record at home and set another program mark for best home record since joining Division I. Only one other team in Pioneers history posted more wins than last seasons’ squad — the 1991 team, which finished with 27 wins.  Last year’s team was the sixth team in program history to break the 20-win barrier.

But with many achievements came devastating disappointment. The Pioneers lost to Western Kentucky in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament and weren’t selected for the NCAA tournament.

“It was a good year,” says Coach Beth Kuwata.  “It would have been a great year if we could have made it to the NCAA tournament.”

But the team took the disappointment and used it as their motivation for this year.

“Our No. 1 goal as a team is the NCAA championship,” says senior Emmy Davidsmeyer. “Our mindset is all or nothing. We are doing whatever it takes to get where we want to go. We are stepping it up in every aspect of volleyball life.”

Stepping it up meant team members stayed in Denver and practiced over the summer on their own dime.

“We are all here, we all care. We wanted to be here with one another practicing this summer,” says Davidsmeyer. “It’s really motivating.”

The team found spending the summer together to be crucial. With no coach and no instructions, the players pushed one another with hopes of enhancing trust, chemistry and relationships.

“They have taken the steps and have taken it up a notch to do even better than last year,” says Kuwata. “You can’t be good in two-and-a-half weeks.”

The team’s first tournament is the Shamerode Invitational, Aug. 28–30 in South Bend, Ind., where the Pioneers will face Notre Dame, LSU and Stanford.

“We will be thrown into the fire early on,” says Kuwata.  “But playing those caliber of teams early on is a good thing.”

In volleyball, the Sun Belt Conference is very challenging this year. Three conference teams went to the NCAA tournament last year. But Kuwata said it’s fortunate to have quality teams in their conference. It helps them prepare for opponents from larger conferences, she says.

The Pioneers lost two four-year starters off last year’s squad but have added three new freshmen to the roster.

Faimie Kingsley from New York is a “really cool kid” and “tremendous student and athlete,” Kuwata says. “Faimie is the piece of clay that you want to mold into something amazing.”

Lyndi Johnson from Flower Mound, Texas, has the skill level and experience to play almost any position, Kuwata says. “She’ll help our team be better. She’s going to play.”

And Brianna Zimlich from Fort Collins, Colo., is the perfect utility player with a lot of versatility, according to Kuwata. “She has a physical presence around the net and has the ability to score a lot of points for us,” Kuwata adds.

The team plans to take the season game by game and make a strong showing in the NCAA tournament.

“We all have it in the back of our minds. There is no time to mess around and not go full out in the gym,” Davidsmeyer says.

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