Former AZ prep stars put GCU sand volleyball on nat’l stage

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A couple of former Arizona prep volleyball stars came together this year to create a team of two that will give Grand Canyon University a national presence in college’s newest sport, sand volleyball.

The experience of Kelli Dallmann, who has already completed four years of indoor volleyball at a Division I school, has combined with the record-setting talent of junior Mackenzie Phelps to form a two-person team that will be competing next week at the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Sand Volleyball National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Dallmann and Phelps make up one of just 10 pairs in the country selected following their qualifying play in the Best of the Rest Pool for the 2014 AVCA Sand Volleyball Pairs Tournament.  Those teams will join with six teams selected by the AVCA to play in the double-elimination national championships.

(*Update 5/4/14:  Dallmann and Phelps finished 2-2 in pool play and won a play-in match in order to advance to the 16-team single-elimination finals, but lost in the opening round to USC’s No. 4-seeded pair of Sarah Hughes and Kirby Burnham, who was on last year’s championship pair.)

For Dallmann, the introduction of sand volleyball last year at GCU has provided a way to extend her college playing career.  She spent four years playing for the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, helping last year’s team become just the third in program history to record 20 or more wins; their 23 victories are second only to the 26 posted by the 1991 squad.

The 5’10” outside hitter attended Cactus High School in Glendale, where she was included on the All-state first team as a senior, was selected to the All-Arizona squad, and named the West Valley Player of the Year.  She helped her 2006 Cactus team to a state championship.

The 23-year-old Phoenix native is attending Grand Canyon in pursuit of a masters degree and, since sand volleyball is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport yet, is able to contribute to bring her wealth of experience to the new program.

Her younger partner is still working on her indoor volleyball career.  Phelps, a junior libero who also stands 5’10”, became the GCU all-time leader in digs with 1,792 this season and set school and Western Athletic Conference single-match records with 52 digs in a five-set match in mid-September.

As a freshman, recruited right out of Prescott High School where she was a first team All-State selection and region Player of the Year, she recorded 561 digs and was named the AVCA West Region Freshman of the Year.  As a sophomore, she was ranked No. 10 in the nation at 5.95 digs per set and set a single-season school record with 661 digs.

Playing together this year as the No. 1 group, the pair compiled a 18-4 record in duals and tournament play.  They won the GCU Pairs Tournament last month and closed out the final week of the regular season with a runner-up finish in the silver division of the Fiesta on Siesta Key Tournament in Florida.

“What a unique opportunity for Kelli and Kenzie to not only be chosen as one of the teams to compete for a pairs championship, but also to be representing Grand Canyon University in the up-and-coming sport of sand volleyball,” said GCU head coach Kris Naber when the selection of her players was announced.

GCU was the first Arizona college to add a sand volleyball program, running its first season of competition last year.  Arizona State, University of Arizona, and Arizona Christian University have now made the move to add the new sport. (See 4/3/14 phxfan article)  The Antelopes went winless in their first year in the sand, but put together an 8-5 record this season.

“I’m extremely proud of the work Kelli and Kenzie have put into getting where they are today,” adds Naber.  “I look for them to make a name for GCU in Alabama.”

(Photo: GCU Athletics)