It’s Friday, Sept. 15, and at this moment in the middle of Game 2 of the volleyball team’s home opener inside Newman Arena, head coach Deitre Collins-Parker has to do something she hates – call a timeout.
Timeouts in volleyball only mean one thing: your team is starting to lose ground to the opposition, and momentum is starting to swing towards the opponent. This time is no different, as the Red has just given up consecutive points on defensive miscues and now trails St. John’s by a score of 23-20.
Cornell comes out of its huddle and lines up facing the net, seeing six sets of eyes peering at senior Elizabeth Bishop – Option No. 1 of “Operation: Gain Momentum” has been weeded out before the serve has even been cast into the air. The Red Storm middles have done a pretty good job containing the Reds second option, senior first-team All-Ivy middle blocker Joanna Weiss, for most of the game as well.
The ball goes up, arcs over the net, and after a Cornell dig and a set from junior Amy Gordon, senior outside hitter Alex Dyer comes out of nowhere and spikes the ball with the authority of Thor’s hammer, deep into the heart of the Red Storm defense.
Kathleen Yee, St. John’s defensive specialist and libero, never even had a chance.
“When Alex is on she hits as hard as anybody,” said head coach Collins-Parker. “Just on straight out strength and power, she hits harder than anybody in the Ivy League. Other teams don’t know what to expect with her, and we’re just starting to realize what she’s capable of, but we know that we have a nice weapon that is still in the process of developing.”
With Dyer’s kill, Cornell starts to heat up, and although it would eventually lose the contest, it forces St. John’s to respect the outside’s second option. Dyer, a junior transfer from Seton Hall, would eventually end the match second on the team in kills (15) and first on the team in hitting percentage (.467). And throughout the season, this has been a trend. She has secured her spot as the team’s outside hitter, opposite Bishop, with Thais Mirela’s ’07 departure to play professionally in Germany.
While Dyer might not play with the same flair that the Brazilian Mirela brought to the court, the Colorado native brings with her a blue-collar approach and a powerful ball, the latter of which she claims she has always had, but hasn’t always had control of while playing in high school and for two years at Seton Hall — the place she ended her sophomore year seventh in the Big East in kills.
“I was always an all-around athlete and was asked to play volleyball in high school because I could jump,” Dyer said. “I’ve always been able to hit the ball hard, but in high school and early on in college, most of the time it would always go out.”
If getting the ball in bounds is something she can do consistently this season for the Red, the team could prove to be a three-headed monster with Bishop’s All-Northeast Region finesse and power game from the side, Weiss’ presence up front and Dyer’s hammer from the opposite, far edge. It all depends on her logging more experience in Collins-Parker’s offensive system to make sure her power game translates to the stat sheet.
“It’s great to see her being successful,” said assistant coach Sarah Bernson. “Last year, she wasn’t as consistent with her power to where we wanted it to be and she’s worked hard and it’s starting to pay off for her. It’s great to see her reach her potential and see it help the team.”
Dyer’s emergence on the wing has been most in part due to her fitting into her new role as the team’s unguarded option — a role Dyer is more than willing to take advantage of.
“I feel confident in my role,” Dyer said. “I have an amazing team supporting me. I can’t just hit the ball by myself. It takes great passes and great middles to take the block away, so I just try to serve the team well.”
Dyer has done just that, as her 86 kills this season ranks her second on the team, along with her average of 3.19 kills per game. When the ball goes outside, Dyer is always up for taking the open look.
“I always want to get the ball and smack it down,” Dyer said. “That’s the driving force in volleyball.”