Coming into the season, the UT volleyball team had a few questions surrounding them. Could the team still contend after losing their best player and All-American, Ericka Womack? Who was going to step up in place of her?
Margeaux Sinibaldi, Katelen Dixon and Stephanie Rivera answered those questions. After starting the preseason ranked second in the nation, Tampa has won their first twelve games and the team is now atop the polls for the third time in school history.
Dixon, a junior from Clearwater, was named player of the week in the Sunshine State Conference for her strong play in the Colorado Premier Challenge held in Denver, Colorado.
“It was definitely an honor. I was very surprised to win the award,” said Dixon.
Dixon recorded 61 kills in four matches against some of the best teams in the country.
“It’s an awesome feeling when you defeat some of the top teams in the country. There was good competition and it was a great learning experience for the team. It’s always difficult to play your best at the beginning of the season, but I think our team is making great strides,” commented Dixon.
Sinibaldi, who holds the UT record for digs in a season, was named SSC Player of the Week two weeks ago for her defensive effort in the Tampa Classic.
“It is nice to be recognized,” said Sinibaldi. “The goal is to get better, and I think starting the season with these tournaments is a good experience. We have a long way to go, but it was a productive learning experience.”
Rivera, one of the team’s two seniors, continues to be one of Tampa’s top offensive players. Rivera has recorded 100 kills this season, second on the team behind Dixon. Rivera was named to the All-Tournament team in the Premier Challenge in Colorado.
“Ericka [Womack] was a great player and a great leader, but we have a great team this season. On any given night Tarah [Marinelli], Alisha [Green], or Katelen can step up and have a big night. We just have to keep playing well as a team,” said Rivera.
Although the Spartans are ranked first in the nation, Dixon believes the team has to stay focused because every team is out to prove themselves.
“I think other teams will be more motivated to play us now that we’re ranked first. We just have to continue to play our best each game.”