UP volleyball sees changes to coaching staff and roster

By Morgan Wahler | May 3, 2019 8:37pm
Jeff Baxter talks to one of his players.
Media Credit: University of Portland Athletics / The Beacon

A lot will look different for the women’s volleyball team next year, based off of changes including the transfers of three key players and the loss of assistant coach, Betsy Sedlack. Megan Burton was brought on in March as a new assistant coach and a few new freshmen were brought on in time for beach season this spring.

Among those not returning is junior Izzy Guzik, who was a key outside hitter and dominating offensive and defensive force for the volleyball team. Last season, she averaged 2.71 kills per set and 2.3 digs and will continue her volleyball career playing for the University of Mississippi Rebels next year. She declined to further comment on her transfer. 

Junior Cali Thompson was the team’s starting setter and played in the front row and the back row, and in her career made 3658 total assists, averaging 10.3 assists per set. She will finish her volleyball career playing for at University of California, Los Angeles Bruins and declined to comment, as well. 

Freshman middle blocker Kylie Ristvedt also transferred, and was unable to be reached for comment.

“We're all disappointed to see them leave of course and a little sad,” middle blocker Shayla Hoeft said. “But in the end, I think that our culture here isn't going to fade or change at all and if anything is going to get better.”

Cali Thompson transferred to UCLA earlier this semester.
by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

With three players transferring out, the team welcomed two new transfers to their indoor and beach volleyball rosters this semester: freshmen Grace Zilbert and Jessie Brigham.

“Our team has a special culture. It’s the players who are already here and the players who have come before them that lay out what the culture should be and what they want it to be,” Baxter said. “Jessie and Grace came in and they welcomed them with open arms, our whole team opened up right away.”

The two freshmen defensive specialists transferred to Portland for the six-week spring training and to participate in the beach season. 

“We're all really hard workers and we all want to get better,” Hoeft said of the team. “We have two new girls and they've only added to culture of good people just playing the sport they love together.” 

Brigham played for the Boise State Broncos last semester before coming to Portland. 

“It’s been really easy to adjust, especially having the girls and coaching staff help if you need anything,” Brigham said. “The team and the coaches and the culture of the whole program is welcoming and comforting.”

Zilbert just recently graduated from Lincoln High School and has immediately jumped into the collegiate volleyball scene. 

Izzy Guzik transferred to Ole Miss.
by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

“I was really nervous about coming in, but everyone was so welcoming, especially the girls,” Zilbert said of her transition from high school to college. “They made us feel right at home.”

When asked, ‘why Portland volleyball,’ Zilbert’s reply was simple: culture.

“It’s really just like a family environment, it’s so supportive,” Zilbert commented. “Jessie and I are the same position, but we’re still best friends. We want the best for the team not what’s best for the individual and I think that’s really rare.”

In January, the team lost their assistant coach, Betsy Sedlack, who left to attend graduate school for Kinesiology in February, with focuses in athletics administration and coaching, according to a Portland Pilots press release.

The Pilots announced the hiring of Megan Burton as the new assistant coach in a Portland Pilots press release on Tuesday, Mar. 12. She is coming off of five seasons with the University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack as an assistant coach and co-recruiting coordinator. 

“I can’t say enough about Megan, she came in and really just hit the ground running and found areas we could be making upgrades as a staff,” Baxter said. “It’s been a really big breath of fresh air.” 

Megan Burton was hired as an assistant coach in March.

Burton previously filled the same role at San Jose State. She was also director of operations at St. Mary’s College, her alma mater, where she played as a four-year starter for the Gaels, leading them to their first WCC Championship.

Burton will reunite with junior Hoeft, who just transferred to Portland from Reno before the fall 2018 season. 

With all these changes and new additions to the 2019 volleyball roster, the consistency of the team’s family-oriented culture remains strong and at the center of everything they do. For Baxter, one thing has not waivered: the team culture.  

“Our culture has earned the right for me to say we have a great culture,” Baxter said. “We’ve faced adversity and things have changed around our program, but that has remained a constant.”

Morgan Wahler is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at wahler20@up.edu.