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Queens of the Court
Volleyball program's great expectations
by Ryan T. Blystone

Which University of San Diego sports team has multiple conference championships to its credit, regularly competes in the NCAA postseason and has reached the Sweet 16 round on two occasions?

If you answered women’s volleyball, go to the head of the class.

The program has five West Coast Conference titles to its credit — a co-title in 2007 was its third championship in the last four seasons — and has participated in the NCAA Tournament 12 times since 1993.

But if there’s anything new that Jennifer Petrie, entering her 10th season as USD’s head coach, wants to see in 2008, it’s for an already successful season to last longer. Volleyball season got underway in August, but USD’s ultimate goal is to play into late December, perhaps even on Dec. 20, the day the national championship will be decided.

“We need to win at the next level,” says Petrie who enters this season with a 169-69 record at USD. “We have a lot of confidence in our conference. We have a lot of confidence in our abilities. But when it gets down to playing against one of those Top 10 teams, you have to get past the next hurdle.”

While Petrie and assistant coaches Brent Hilliard, Stephanie Moreno and Paul Warren know the talent is present for another WCC championship and a postseason tournament berth, in the end, it comes down to the players’ desire.

“I’m really excited and this is my last chance,” says Jessica Nyrop, a fifth-year senior setter and biochemistry major. “I think we have the potential to do some really great things.”

Nyrop, a red-shirt her sophomore year, knows all about expectations. “My first year here (2004) we went to the Sweet 16 so it was kind of expected. You want to go farther every year. There’s no settling.”

She and her USD teammates showcased their desire during April’s Collegiate Beach Nationals in Mission Beach. Nyrop, Jaimarie Sutherland, Ali Troost, Kayleen Webster, Andrea Csaszi, Amy DeGroot, Torey Ellick and Breanne Ogden led USD to a second-place finish in the team competition. Nyrop also played for the U.S. Women’s Senior A2 National Team.

“It’s really crucial to your success in the fall that your players are motivated to train in any capacity in the summer that they can. The more they can touch volleyballs as we head into our preseason, the more prepared they’re going to be,” Petrie says. ‘Our girls do an excellent job. They’re driven to succeed.”