Weber State volleyball: Adams, Power, Schiess closing careers as some of WSU’s best to do it
As Weber State volleyball approaches the close of the fall 2021 regular season Saturday, it prepares to honor three seniors who helped make history with the program’s first NCAA Tournament win in the spring and who will dot the school’s record book.
The Wildcats (17-8, 12-3 Big Sky) are playing for first place in the Big Sky when they host Southern Utah at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Because Portland State lost in five sets to Montana State late Thursday night, a Weber State win Saturday clinches the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament and at least a share of the regular-season title with Northern Colorado. Weber State is already hosting this year’s conference tournament and such a feat would again put the tourney in Ogden in 2022.
Outside hitter Rylin Adams, setter Ashlyn Power and middle blocker Sam Schiess have been the foundational pieces of the current build that is the best multi-season stretch in program history: third place in 2018, second in 2019, and the program’s first league title since 1988 in the spring 2021 season.
WSU has never even stacked consecutive second- or third-place finishes together. A third-place finish preceded the 1988 title and, after that, the Wildcats didn’t finish higher than fifth place more than once in the following 11 years.
So the Wildcats host SUU (6-21, 2-13) on Saturday to continue that streak of high finishes and win the program’s first back-to-back conference titles with Adams, Power and Schiess leading the way. Also at stake: a 25th-straight home win, which would complete a second consecutive undefeated season at Swenson Gym.
The three seniors share the experience of, for a time, not knowing if they’d even get a senior season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately pushed the fall 2020 season into a shortened spring 2021 campaign.
Due to NCAA relief, that academic year did not count against eligibility so they got two senior seasons instead.
“We had no idea when we were going to play or if we were going to play, if we were going to get our senior year,” Power said. “But looking back on that after the fact, I think that the COVID fall and the process of waiting was a really good thing for us. I think we grew closer as a team and we learned a lot in that waiting time. I think it motivated us to work harder and kind of take initiative to do the work ourselves.”
Adams won Big Sky MVP for the spring 2021 season, which WSU finished with a 19-2 record, and Power and Scheiss (along with sophomore Dani Nay) were both named to the all-conference First Team.
Adams said whether the team was winning or losing, their continual focus on the daily process never wavered and now, they’ve seen the fruits of that effort.
“You take care of the small things and the small things will take care of you. I think we’ve definitely done that,” she said.
— RYLIN ADAMS —
Weber State fans who haven’t seen the historic conclusion to the careers of these three seniors have missed Adams, perhaps one of the school’s all-time competitors in any sport. Adams, who plays with a fire behind her eyes at all times, has been publicly open about her battle to overcome an eating disorder as a college athlete and has focused her studies on the matter — all while earning league MVP honors and climbing to fourth place on the school’s all-time kills list.
After Thursday’s sweep of Northern Arizona, Adams sits at 1,340 kills. It’s 26 away from moving into third place; with a regular-season finale and the possibility of three conference tournament matches, that’s essentially in the bag. Her 5-foot-9 stature, perhaps undersized for a Division I outside hitter, belies the power and relentless effort she gives to Weber State’s attack.
Adams, from Lehi, Utah, was the first player head coach Jeremiah Larsen recruited after his hire in 2015.
“We really struggled a lot the first few years but I think it added more maturity and dimension to us,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have been here so long so I’ve been able to see the progression and see the fruits of our labors. It’s been awesome and our coaches have been amazing for us, and in believing in us and pushing us to where we are today.”
Adams will graduate in December with a degree in social work and helped the athletic department create a mental health task force for athletes at Weber State. She will transfer to Louisiana-Monroe to start a graduate program in clinical mental health counseling with hopes of becoming a therapist who can work with athletes who have eating disorders.
And her college career isn’t over yet. She’ll hit the sand and will immediately play beach volleyball for the Warhawks in the spring. She has two seasons to play beach volleyball while she works on her graduate degree.
POWER ON ADAMS: “Ry is probably the most passionate teammate I’ve ever had. She plays with so much fire and so much passion because she loves volleyball and loves to compete. … It makes her so much fun to play with because she’s just such a gamer.
“She’s a competitor in every sense of the word and, like Sam, just an even better person than she is a volleyball player. I have the most respect for Sam and Ry. Being a senior with them, being recognized with them, is an honor to me because I feel like they’re two of the best people I know off the court. I admire and respect both of them a lot.”
SCHIESS ON ADAMS: “She’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever played any sport with. She has so much character and she’s so unapologetically herself. It’s scary sometimes to be vulnerable and be yourself when you’re not sure if everyone else is on the same page as you. I think Ry does an awesome job of that. … I’m never in doubt of whether or not Ry is going to come and work hard, whether it’s in practice, at a game, whatever it is.
“She’s always being the best version of herself. She’s always working hard to make us better and make herself better. I think I’ve learned a ton from Ry about being a better person in general, regardless of whether that’s around volleyball or not. Just about how to be a better human being … I’m super grateful that I got to play with her.”
— ASHLYN POWER —
Hitters and blockers tend to get the most attention in volleyball, with high-flying swings of the arm or the emphatic thud of sending an opposing attack straight to the court for a point.
But that success comes in part because of players like Power. The 5-foot-8 setter will leave as one of the best to ever do it not only at Weber State, but in the Big Sky Conference.
In Thursday’s three-set win over Northern Arizona, Power became the new career leader in sets played for the Big Sky Conference at 514. She long ago blitzed Weber State’s career assists record, a tally that now stands at 5,376 after Thursday night — a lead of 2,182 ahead of second-place Drena Kalani from 1982-84. That number, the difference between first and second, would be good enough by itself to be 10th all-time at WSU.
Power is currently third on the Big Sky’s career assist leaderboard and is 122 away from moving into second. She recorded 30 assists in a three-set sweep Thursday so, with the regular-season finale, conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament or NIVC Tournament possibly ahead, second place is well within reach.
“It means a lot to me. It’s been a super special experience and I’m really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to come play here. And it’s been super fun to be part of building a program,” Power said. “A big reason I wanted to come here was because of what (Larsen) and the coaching staff, the vision they had for the program and I wanted to be part of that. … It’s something not many people can say that they got to experience.”
Power isn’t done, either. She’s graduating in December with a degree in psychology and will transfer to Texas A&M Corpus Christi to start a graduate program in kinesiology and sports performance, with the goal of working in the realm of sports psychology and mental health.
And, yes, she’s playing beach volleyball for the Islanders. The Nebraska native will go from the midwest prairie to the mountains of Utah to the gulf coast (Corpus Christi isn’t just on the beach, it is the beach). Like Adams, Power will do the spring-fall-spring turnaround and has two seasons to play beach volleyball.
Louisiana-Monroe and TAMU-CC typically schedule each other, Power says, so she expects to compete against Adams at some point.
ADAMS ON POWER: “Without her, we wouldn’t have any of the success we’ve had. … She’s just been a go-getter. She works her butt off all the time, whether it’s the classroom, the weight room or on the court.
“I think the best thing about Ashlyn is how good of a teammate she is. She’s kind of a selfless leader and she’s been that for us every single year. She never looks for any kind of recognition and is never worried about herself, she’s always worried about everyone else. She’s been a great leader and an awesome person to be surrounded by the last few years.”
SCHIESS ON POWER: “She’s just our rock. I know where she’s going to be and I know she’s going to deliver and work her butt off for us no matter what day it is. Off the court, she’s hilarious. She’s so fun to be around. And I think she brings that on the court, too, and that’s part of what makes us special as a team is we’re having fun together out there. We love playing together.
“When I’m struggling and I’m having an off day, I know I can go to Ash and be like, ‘hey man, I’m trying, I’ll do better. Thank you for being patient,’ and she’s like ‘dude, don’t even sweat it. I believe in you, I trust you.’ She has the utmost faith in all of us as teammates and that kind of frees the rest of us up to go be better players because we know she’s got our back. I feel so lucky to have been able to be at Weber State the same time as her.”
— SAM SCHIESS —
As she approached the end of high school at nearby Bonneville High School, Sam Filiaga really wanted to play college basketball.
From there, she describes her college career as a path of luck and guidance from above.
She found an opportunity to play volleyball at Salt Lake Community College, which turned out to be the “right timing and right place” to catch Larsen’s eye when he hit the recruiting trail for a middle blocker in 2017.
She transferred to Weber State, married football defensive tackle Jared Schiess and grew into a big role come the spring of 2021. Because she began at SLCC, her career totals don’t pile as high as those of Adams or Power, but she became one of the most efficient hitters in WSU program history and is adept at completing quick-strike kills from the middle, rising up off one leg and putting opponents in danger.
Entering this season, her career hitting percentage of .324 was tied for second-best all-time at WSU with Hannah Hill-DeYoung (2016-19). Schiess is hitting .322 this season, which will likely put her third at WSU and near the top-15 in Big Sky history. After Thursday, her 274 career block assists approaches WSU’s top-10 list.
“I’m just so grateful God put me in the position to be here with these players, my teammates, my coaches. I really feel like I just kind of lucked into this. I’m just so grateful that’s how it worked out,” Schiess said. “I can’t even put into words or express how lucky I am or how humbled I am to have been in this position and that the stars aligned for us all to be together. Because these are some of the best people I’ve ever been around.”
Both Sam and Jared will leave Weber State with master’s degrees in hand. Sam said that’s been a blessing to be able to lean on each other and also play sports that share the same season. Sam has a bachelor’s degree in athletic therapy and finishes her athletic training graduate program this spring. She interned with the Ogden Raptors this summer and, after graduation, hopes to become certified as an athletic trainer and “see where that takes me.”
ADAMS ON SCHIESS: “She’s a really big fighter. She gets after it every single day and she pushes us every single day. She’s not afraid to hold us accountable and say things that need to be said. So it’s been great being surrounded by her, she’s helped me to become a lot tougher and a stronger person.
“I think my whole team is amazing, but she’s an awesome person on and off the court … she’s just a great individual and a great person; putting volleyball aside, she’s awesome.”
POWER ON SCHIESS: “She’s just one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever been around and also she’s super no-nonsense. She’s going to find a way to get it done and she’s not really going to take any ‘BS.’ I have a lot of respect for Sam just in how she carries herself on and off the court. She’s a super great person off the court in that she goes out of her way to help people and make sure you’re taken care of. She’s a fighter, she’s a competitor.”
— EMILY OLSON —
In addition to those three seniors, WSU will also honor setter Emily Olson, who will depart after playing in 109 sets. A sophomore in athletic eligibility, Olson will be graduating and moving on from the program.
Just before the spring 2021 season, Olson learned she had Grave’s disease, a condition of hyperthyroidism that can cause rapid heartbeats and hormone issues, and also contracted COVID-19.
A story posted to the school’s website says Olson will graduate with a degree in nutrition and plans to coach club volleyball next year while finding a job in the nutrition field.
“We have some core values in our program and she is the epitome one of them, which is selflessness,” Larsen said in WSU’s story. “She definitely puts herself on the backburner 99% of the time. Whatever we need her to do, she’ll do. That’s a rare trait in athletes and in people in general.”