GCU volleyball surges as Phelps sets new digs records

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                </div>Mackenzie Phelps is still diggin’ it.  The junior libero from Prescott High School is a key reason the Grand Canyon University volleyball team has been able to rebound from a […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Mackenzie Phelps is still diggin’ it.  The junior libero from Prescott High School is a key reason the Grand Canyon University volleyball team has been able to rebound from a disastrous start to the season.

The Antelopes are hot right now as they get ready for their home opener today against cross-town rival Arizona Christian.  Actually, it’s hard to call this a rivalry since GCU has won all nine times they’ve met.

And, if Phelps has anything to do with it, the Firestorm, who are 1-7 this season, will have a hard time changing that pattern.

Phelps, who was a first team All-State selection and Region Player of the Year at Prescott High, has been setting records since her sophomore year at GCU.  Last season she set a single-season record with 661 digs and tied another school mark with 45 digs in a single game.

Now she has passed that milestone and set new marks in both the school and conference record books.  Her 52 digs in a five-set match Friday against Central Connecticut was a school record and also a single-match high in the Western Athletic Conference, which the ‘Lopes just joined as they begin the transition from Division II to Division I.

And her team is riding the momentum she has helped build, winning four of its last five games after going 0-4 to start the season.  Most of that success came at the Big Green Invitational in Hanover, N.H.  The ‘Lopes went 3-1 during the tournament, with Phelps averaging almost seven digs per set over four matches.

GCU opened this season with a couple of out-of-state tournaments, so they faced Weber State and Texas Tech in the Wildcat Invitational in Utah and then a week later traveled to Nevada for the Wolf Pack Invitational where they met Weber State again and also Illinois State and UC Davis.  The lone win during the trips was to Weber State.

But now they have a week-long stand at home before hitting the road again.

“After nine matches on the road, it will be good to play on familiar territory, and with our fans supporting us,” says head coach Kris Naber.  “We’re coming back home with some confidence and are excited to play in front of our fans.

“Our fans got a glimpse of our team at the Alumni Match (in August); now they can see how far we’ve come.”

Those fans will get to see a number of local players on the floor this week, in addition to Phelps.  One that is enjoying a solid season so far is Kaitlynn Ausmus from Deer Valley High School, who is finishing out her college career. The 5’10” outside hitter, who set school records at Deer Valley for kills and kill efficiency, had a career-high 20 kills on the opening day of the Big Green Invite.  Ausmus and Phelps were named to the All-Tournament team.

But Phelps is the one who will steal the spotlight this season as she inches closer to becoming the school’s all-time leader for career digs.  She’s No. 2 on the list right now with 1,445 and needs just 296 to pass the current record-holder Laurann Durbin, who set the mark just a couple of years ago.

Phelps had 109 digs just last week, so it shouldn’t take much longer.

And, since she’s still a junior, she has another year yet to put that mark almost out of reach.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)