Volleyball and soccer projected to win it all after sweeping preseason awards

Senior Texas State student serves in volleyball.

Jaden Edison

Senior transfer Rylie Fuentes serves to her teammates at the preseason Meet the Cats event Aug. 23 at Strahan Coliseum. Photo by Jaden Edison.

Dedrick Johnson, Sports Reporter

Texas State’s volleyball and soccer programs have already clinched their spot at the top of conference projections, receiving every single Sun Belt specialty preseason award and being voted to win the conference in a preseason poll.

In the poll executed by Sun Belt head coaches, Bobcat volleyball received unanimous votes as number one in the Sun Belt conference, while the soccer program racked up six of the 12 available votes to be named season favorites.

Despite their early-season accomplishments, the volleyball team won’t let the awards keep them from putting in the work necessary to defend their conference title, head coach Karen Chisum said.

“After we patted each other on the back, we tore them up and threw them in the trash can,” Chisum said. “It puts a bigger target on our back, but we have accepted the challenge.”

According to head soccer coach Kat Conner, the team welcomes the added intensity that comes with being the conference’s number one pick.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Conner said. “We are thankful that we are thought of so highly and I am glad that this pressure is on us.”

Texas State volleyball and soccer absolutely swept the Sun Belt conference’s specialty awards.

On the volleyball team, senior Micah Dinwiddie received Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her four years as a Bobcat libero.

“She is on a mission,” Chisum said. “She is a small feisty player with her goals set for this season.”

Senior and outside hitter Cheyenne Huskey has already set precedent this season after being chosen as the first Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in Bobcat volleyball history.

“She can do almost anything,” Chisum said. “She’s very focused and she is coming in with a different mindset.”

Sophomore Emily DeWalt received Preseason Setter of the Year and sophomore Janell Fitzgerald was listed on the All-Sun Belt team.

Bobcat soccer also took on preseason awards with 5 All-Sun Belt preseason selections including Kaylee Davis, Jordan Kondikoff, Heather Martin, Genesis Turman and Sarah Everett. All but Everett were repeat selections from the previous conference-winning year, and the team was selected as the No. 1 Sun Belt projection for the first time since 2010.

Texas State soccer swept the specialty awards, taking both Preseason Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.
Senior forward Kaylee Davis was selected as the Offensive Player of the Year after her impressive 18- goal 2018 season, a feat which tied for the most goals in a Texas State season and ranked her goalscoring at third in the nation.

After her record-breaking season, Davis received the Sun Belt Player of the Year award and most recently was nominated on the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list in early August.

“Davis has an unbelievable first-step explosion,” Conner said. “Once she gets turned, it’s quicker than people think.”

Senior goalkeeper Heather Martin was selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after coming off of a record-breaking season of her own. Martin smashed Bobcat season records with a 0.45 GAA and nearly 92 percent save percentage, giving her national rankings and helping her nomination as the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year.

“(Martin) has natural God-given talent,” Conner said. “It’s that explosiveness that makes her special.”

Both teams have high expectations after dominating the conference in the 2018 season.

Bobcat volleyball were easy champions of the Sun Belt last year, going 15-1 in conference play and making history as the first Texas State volleyball team to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Their season record ended at 27-7 in 2018 after the second-round loss against Interstate competitors the University of Texas.

Chisum believes that the team will be able to not only maintain their high level of play, but even improve in the upcoming season. In her Coach Chisum’s 41 years coaching here at Texas State, she is particularly impressed with this team’s determination.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group be this focused,” Chisum said. “We have to continue to get one percent better every time we step foot in the gym.”

In addition to work ethic and focus, Chisum believes that the team’s passion will get them far in the 2019 season.

“This is a great group of young ladies that really love to be Bobcats,” Chisum said. “They are very proud of what they’ve done in the past and they really want to continue their legacy.”

Revenge and redemption are more on the minds of the soccer team, whose season ended in a heartbreaker loss in the Sun Belt Championship Final against Little Rock. The regular season champions fell short in penalty kicks, missing the NCAA tournament despite being undefeated in conference play.

Conner believes her team can repeat and win the conference again, but this time go a step further and advance to the NCAA tournament. To get to that next step, she says her team must pay attention to the small details, play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Conner also believes that this year’s team is exceptional, citing their work ethic and perseverance as their key to success.

“This group has grit,” Conner said. “They come out and work and they are always ready to achieve more. The second you think you have them done, they just keep battling.”

Both coaches would like to have as many fans as possible at their upcoming home games. Bobcat volleyball will host Liberty at noon and the University of Southern California in a doubleheader on Friday, while the soccer team will gear up for its next home match on September 1st at 7 p.m against Houston Baptist.

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