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College volleyball notes: 5-foot-3 Maddye Dinsmore stands tall for Whitworth

Maddye Dinsmore, last year’s Northwest Conference player of the year, encourages her Whitworth Pirates teammates.
Maddye Dinsmore, last year’s Northwest Conference player of the year, encourages her Whitworth Pirates teammates.

Maddye Dinsmore is often the shortest player on the floor, but it’s impossible to overlook her impact on Whitworth volleyball.

The 5-foot-3 setter is a four-year starter, second in program history in assists and the reigning Northwest Conference player of the year. Dinsmore and her experienced teammates have the Pirates (10-3, 4-0 NWC) on track to earn a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Dinsmore and winning have been linked since her prep days in Burns, a town of roughly 3,000 in southeast Oregon. She was all-state as a sophomore and junior and 3A player of the year as a senior as Burns High captured a state title. That sparked recruiting interest from schools at all levels, D-I to NAIA to D-III.

Dinsmore chose Whitworth because of its strong academics and athletics, and, true to her Burns roots, she said, “Spokane is a large city with a small-town feel.”

She was a sprinter on Whitworth’s track team as a freshman, but the demands of two sports took a toll. She was sidelined with mononucleosis for a few weeks during volleyball. She decided to focus on volleyball “because I didn’t love track as much as volleyball.” Older sister Jaela did the opposite years before, picking track over volleyball at Willamette.

Dinsmore has put in countless hours in the spring in the strength and conditioning program and working with assistant coach Jamie Pancho on setting. Dinsmore also satisfies her need to stay active by doing interval training, swimming, running, yoga and hiking.

“She’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve come across,” coach Kati Bodecker said. “She has a lot of natural ability and her knowledge of the game helps. She sees things well, but she’s also one of the fastest players and she’s able to chase down any ball and get her feet square.”

Whitworth is an efficient offensive team, hitting at a .191 clip, and stubbornly resilient with a conference-leading 915 digs. The Pirates have authored several improbable comebacks, once digging out of a 10-4 fifth-game deficit and rallying from large late-set holes against NWC contenders Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound.

“We definitely have the mental toughness and heart to come back,” Dinsmore said. “We’re trying to work on being a little stronger earlier and not getting into those situations.”

Coaches routinely exaggerate roster heights of players but not at Whitworth. The Pirates list no 6-footers and just one at 5-11. Lewis & Clark, which shares first with Whitworth and Willamette, has four players between 5-11 and 6-2.

“Sometimes they say I’m 5-4, but that would be really stretching it,” Dinsmore said. “We’re definitely an athletic team. In regard to the lack of height we have, a lot of us have that drive and passion for the game. When you bring all of us on the court together, we’re just a unit.”

Bulldogs share first

Gonzaga is off to a fast start in the WCC with home wins over No. 23 Pacific and Saint Mary’s. Tied at 1-1, Gonzaga edged Pacific 25-23 in sets three and four, the latter featuring 17 ties and four lead changes.

“When you’ve begged and clawed and grinded out the last couple years to create a little bit of a presence, it’s tremendous validation when you get in those situations and make it happen,” coach Dave Gantt said.

The Zags and San Diego the only unbeatens left in the balanced, tough WCC. BYU dropped to 15th in the rankings after falling to Santa Clara. Pacific fell out of the top 25 and joined GU (nine votes), San Diego and Santa Clara in the receiving votes category. San Francisco received votes a week ago but went 0-2 on opening weekend.

Three of Gonzaga’s four losses are to unbeatens: No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Arizona State and No. 12 Kansas.

Cardinals break through

North Idaho College put an end to its fifth-set frustrations by knocking off No. 1-ranked College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls last Friday. Seven of the Cardinals’ 11 losses (two were exhibitions) have been in five sets against high-level foes – No. 1 CSI, No. 3 Western Nebraska, No. 5 Hutchinson, No. 16 Missouri-West Plains, NAIA No. 7 Eastern Oregon, Northwest Conference favorite Whitworth and NWAC power Blue Mountain.

“Toward the end our girls had so much confidence, I could see it in their faces,” coach Kelsey Stanley said. “They weren’t that timid, inexperienced team I had in preseason.”

Coming up

Eastern Washington (7-6, 2-0), first in the Big Sky North Division, entertains Southern Utah on Thursday and Idaho (4-10, 1-1) on Saturday. The Vandals have won four straight in the series. … Washington State (12-2, 1-1) faces its first Pac-12 road trip, taking on No. 2 USC (14-0, 2-0) Friday and No. 11 UCLA (10-2, 1-1) Sunday.

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