A lot of hard work by coaches, administrators, boosters, and student athletes has gone into building a nine sport Dalton State athletic department from the ground up.
The first ever Roadrunner volleyball game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, in the small South Carolina town of Central. Contrary to its name, Central is not in the center of the state. Near Greenville, it was named because it was the railroad’s mid-way point between Atlanta and Charlotte.
Dalton State Athletic Director Derek Waugh says he will make the trip. “I can’t wait to see our teams in action,” said Waugh. “I will travel with the team to South Carolina.”
While Roadrunner coaches and players believe most of the DS athletic teams will be more than competitive, Waugh said he wants to keep this first season in perspective.
“Our coaches are so competitive that one of my tasks is to make sure they realize this whole endeavor is a building process and they don’t have to go undefeated in year one,” said Waugh. “All of the coaches have done a tremendous job in such a short amount of time. I am just very proud of their efforts.”
“I am super excited to finally have our Dalton State volleyball team playing our first official match,” Roadrunner Coach Bruna Langner said.
While NAIA regulations have kept them from team practice before this month, Langer said her players have been working on their own.
“The girls have worked hard all summer long to get in shape and they have been working extra hard since they came in for pre-season,” said Langner. “
The host Southern Wesleyan University Warriors are new to the NAIA and the Southern States Athletic Conference. They played last season in the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament.
“Southern Wesleyan will be a very good competitor,” Langner said. “They are a great team with awesome hitters that will make us work hard to defense. At the same time, I believe we will give SWU some competition and fans will be glad they came to watch this great match.”
After the game in South Carolina, DS will go just up the road to play an exhibition game in Cleveland, TN. against Coach Langner’s alma mater. She was a four year NAIA All American for Lee University before becoming an assistant at the school.
Lee played in the NAIA national tournament last fall, but the Flames have now moved up to NCAA Division II. They will be in the Gulf South Conference.
The 15 player Dalton State squad consists of a combination of experienced players and those who are hoping to see their first college action. They are, in alphabetical order:
Michala Askew, a 5’7” setter and defensive specialist, is a 2011 graduate of Ringgold High School. She played her freshman year (2011-2012) at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY before transferring to Shorter University in Rome. After receiving a red shirt year at Shorter, Askew decided to become part of the DS groundbreaking program.
She was both her high school and junior Olympic team captains. The 2010 Central Challenge tournament MVP also earned “most aces” in the Chattanooga/North Area by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Alyne Bianchi, a 5’9” outside hitter and right side hitter, is a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She started her career at Frank Phillips College, a junior college in the Texas panhandle city of Borger.
Frank Phillips has been recognized as “one of the premier junior college volleyball programs in the nation.” Bianchi was all conference for the Lady Plainsmen.
Megan Clark, a 5’6” freshman defensive specialist, is a 2013 graduate of Houston County High School in Warner Robins. She was the captain of her Houston County High volleyball team. Clark was second in the state with 500 digs during her junior year and followed-up with 350 digs her senior season.
Cassie Cochran, a 5’9” junior inside hitter/right side hitter, is a Dalton native and a graduate of Northwest Whitfield High School where she played on successful Lady Bruin volleyball teams. She started her college career at Bryan College in Dayton, TN.
Katie Curtin, a 5’8” sophomore utility player, is a 2011 graduate of Dalton High School. She was a member of the Lady Cat team with a 2010 Georgia “Sweet 16” appearance. Coach Langner says Curtin can play “anywhere we need her.”
Anna Dykes, a 6’1” sophomore middle hitter/outside hitter, was on a top-five volleyball team during all four years at Ringgold High School. The accomplished student and athlete captured third in the state in the high jump during her sophomore year for the Lady Tigers. She attended Dalton State last year and is looking forward to resuming competition in a sport that she loves.
Viviana Garcia, a 5’8” freshman outside/right side/setter, is a 2013 graduate of Houston County High in Warner Robins. She is a native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Her family moved to Georgia from Kentucky following Viviana’s freshman year of high school. She then became teammates with Roadrunner freshman Megan Clark.
Taylor Hathaway, a 5’5” sophomore defensive specialist who played her freshman year at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus. Hathaway is a 2012 graduate of North Cobb Christian School in Kennesaw where she was captain of the volleyball team in both her junior and senior seasons. She calls Woodstock home.
Daniela Molinar, a 5’7” junior with four years of eligibility if she chooses to use them, is an inside/right side hitter. The 2009 Dalton High School graduate was on a Lady Cats team that advanced to the Georgia state Sweet 16 in 2007 and 2008. Molinar is one of three Dalton State players that Coach Langner found from the DS student body. “Since I started my college career in 2009, I was hoping the athletic program would finally develop,” said Molinar when she joined with Anna Dykes and Ashley Nations in signing with the Roadrunners last April.
Ashley Nations, a 5’5” defensive specialist and setter, is a sophomore with all four years of eligibility remaining. Ashley is a 2012 graduate of Ridgeland High School in Rossville.
Savannah Nelson, a 6’ middle blocker, is a 2013 graduate of Red Bank High School in Tennessee. She had 590 blocks and 97 kills for the Lionettes last fall. Savannah has played on a club team since sixth grade and in all four years of high school. She was MVP of Tennessee Region 6-AA.
Karly Newman, a 5’9” outside hitter, is a 2013 graduate of Ooltewah High in Tennessee She finished her senior season with 262 kills, 476 digs, 17 assists, 70 aces, and 25 blocks. The Owls won the 5-AAA regular season and tournament championships last fall and went on to finish fifth in the state.
Tori Pierce, a 5’7” libero and defensive specialist, is a 2013 graduate of East Hamilton High School in Ooltewah, TN.
Kailey Vaughn, a 5’10” sophomore outside hitter, is a 2012 graduate of Sonoraville High School near Calhoun. She played her freshman year for Rhinehardt University in Waleska, but transferred to DS for spring semester.
Vaughn was a three-sport star at Sonoravile, participating in volleyball, basketball, and track.
She started all four years for the Phoenix volleyball team and, when she graduated, held 14 school records. Sonoraville had four state tournament appearances with a career record of 93-49. Vaughn was named area MVP by both the Calhoun Times and the Rome News Tribune.
Vaughn started three years for the North Georgia Rage, holds school records in the shotput and the discus, and was a starter on the Phoenix basketball team while finishing high school with a 4.0 GPA.
Clarissa Weber, a 5’9” junior setter, transferred from Frank Phillips College in Borger, TX. She is a native of the city of Nova Petropolis in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sol.
Roadrunner athletics will soon be in full swing. Men’s and women’s golf and cross country teams begin play in September. Men’s basketball gets underway in late October. Men’s and women’s tennis will then begin in the spring.