San Diego State fall sports are in full offseason mode, but for Aztec volleyball, work still continues for head coach Deitre Collins-Parker and the team.
Despite losing senior middle blocker Deja Harris, the all-time program leader in block assists, Collins-Parker said the leadership style will change from one person to a few leaders.
“It’s nice because they have the experience,” Collins-Parker said. “Even though they are used to being behind (Harris), it’s now time for them to step up and take leadership roles and they’re all very focused on trying to get better.”
Besides Harris, junior outside hitter Ashlynn Dunbar, who led the team with 49 service aces last season, has decided to retire from playing volleyball, she announced in a tweet.
Collins-Parker elected not to go into why Dunbar is not returning to the team, but said, “Sometimes they just need to stop.”
Dunbar will continue to be a student at SDSU, but despite the losses, work for the returning players still continue.
“We spend a lot of time on the individual (side),” Collins-Parker said. “A lot of skill, position training and with the rules changing, we can have a little more time (with the) team as well.”
With a handful of players coming back next season, Collins-Parker said she has more external goals for the offseason.
“One of the goals is to refocus,” she said. “When you come off a season that you didn’t accomplish what you wanted to, you got to refocus and get everyone on the same page to really build for next year.”
In addition to refocusing the team for 2019, Collins-Parker said the bond between everyone has to increase.
“Work on us, work on our family and knowing that last season doesn’t have to define us,” Collins-Parker said. “That has been the biggest thing, just coming together.”
Of the senior class for 2019, Collins-Parker is hoping for outside hitter Hannah Turnlund to step up the most.
“She has been an important part of who we are and what we’ve done,” Collins Parker said. “She has the most potential to be that ‘it’ person.”
Of the younger returning players, Collins-Parker hopes everyone can contribute to the team.
“We saw a lot of good stuff from Erin (Gilchrist) and we need a healthy Gabi (Peoples), who has already been a captain,” Collins-Parker said. “The freshman class has so much with (Victoria O’Sullivan), who got a lot of playing time, Serena (Hodson), a great blocker (sidelined) by injury, Maddie (Lenn), a great all-around player, and Alexis Ratcliff, who stands at 6-foot-6.”
Getting better is the goal for the Scarlet and Black, and they looked into the transfer portal by picking up freshman setter Ashley Vanderpan from Syracuse and junior middle blocker Abby Pugh from Wichita State.
“Transfer rules changed this year and with the loss of (Harris), we wanted to get another middle (blocker) in here,” Collins-Parker said. “Even though we have some of middle (blockers) in the program, we wanted a little more size and that’s where (Pugh, who stands at 6-foot-3) comes in.”
Pugh comes from a Shockers’ team that went to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and 2017.
“(It gives the team) experience,” Collins-Parker said. “She knows what working hard looks like. So, she can step right in and help understand what it takes.”
In addition to Vanderpan and Pugh, Collins-Parker hopes both of them, as well as incoming freshman, Nya Blair contribute to the team next season.
“I’m super excited for (Blair), she’s a good replacement for Dunbar, athletically,” Collins-Parker said. “For both (Vanderpan and Pugh), they give size and experience at their position.”
Besides looking at the transfer pool, recruiting still continues for Collins-Parker and the coaching staff this offseason, in hopes of finding the next Aztec.