Head Volleyball Coach Jason Reed knows the season has not started off the way the team wanted in terms of wins and losses, but he and the rest of the University of Indianapolis volleyball team believe they still have a successful season ahead of them.
“We’re still lacking a little bit on consistency, and we want to put our finger on something and say, ‘This is the issue,’ and that’s not the case,” Reed said. “We demonstrate a lot of really good volleyball in practice and a lot of time in matches, but we’re just not getting over that hump right now. We’re figuring out the way to win at the end of the match. But I’m really optimistic about our team. We’ve got incredible talent, and we’ve got an incredible group of girls. And as we start putting things together, I think we’ll really take off.”
This weekend’s conference split moved the Greyhounds to 2-2 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, the Greyhounds fell to Drury University 3-1 (18-25, 23-25, 25-20, 23-25).
Despite the loss, junior outside hitter Kacee Salyers tallied 13 kills on a total of 30 attacks. UIndy managed four blocks against the Panthers, after having a season-best 12 blocks as a team against Missouri S&T on Friday, Sept. 23.
The Hounds got their second sweep of the season against the Miners. UIndy earned a 25-20 win in the first set, with sophomore middle blocker Katie Voelz earning four of the final seven points.
In the second match, Voelz’s momentum continued as senior middle block Shelby Ruffner joined in to rack up eight kills and three blocks. UIndy won the set 25-22. To finalize the sweep UIndy pulled out a 31-29 win.
Before taking on Drury at home, the team took on Maryville University and University of Missouri-St. Louis on Sept. 17 and 16, respectively.
The Greyhounds took down Maryville 3-2, winning the first set 25-12 and then bouncing from a deficit as the Saints claimed the second and third set 20-25 and 22-25, respectively. Salyers racked up 22 kills and sophomore setter Remi Bowman claimed 55 assists, career highs for both players. Freshman outside hitter Anna Fehribach and senior middle blocker Becca Lira both snagged double-digit kills, with Fehribach hitting 10 and Lira grabbing 12.
The fifth set challenged the Greyhounds. The team jumped ahead 7-3 at first, but then went back and forth with Maryville until the score came to a tie at 13.
“It got to be 13-13, and we had a choice: we could either lay down and hope they give us the win, or we could go earn it. And we earned it,” Reed said.
Salyers and Bowman completed two consecutive kills, ending the fifth set at 15-13 and giving the Greyhounds a victory.
Salyers believes the win against the Saints was the turning point for the team.
“We played so well, we played UIndy volleyball. We played how we know we can play,” she said. “And I just think that’s going to carry into these next matches and the rest of seasons.”
The Hounds have had to make adjustments to their practices in order to see improvements on the court during a match. Reed said that the team has placed an emphasis on competing and consistency throughout the entire practice.
“We’ve tried to set up some things in practice where they have to overcome some mental obstacles, because it’s not a physical problem. It’s not a lack of execution on a consistent basis, it’s just being able to do it over and over again,” Reed said.
“We’ve also kind of put in some negative reinforcements. So if you lose, there’s going to be a punishment. If the outcome is not what you want, you’ve got to pay the consequences. Through practice, we’re hoping to associate that feeling of ‘Man, I don’t like running or this conditioning’ with the loss.”
Salyers believes that the changes made in practice, especially adding negative reinforcements, has benefitted the team’s drive on the court.
“Nobody on our team likes to run, so we’ll play a game in practice and simulate it like a normal match, with the losing team having to run,” Salyers said. “So in a real game, we really push to score those first five points, or not be down by five because we think about running and it drives us. The other team backs down a little. So I think that’s been really good for us.”
Reed said that the team would not be able to achieve victories and continue to improve without the veterans leadership.
“You could look at our record and think it’d be easy to just check out, and that’s not the case at all. Everyone has bought in, and the only way everyone has bought in is because our leadership is strong,” he said. “They work together, and they’re all on the right path, and we’re moving in the right direction. Our leaders are doing an exceptional job of continuing that behind closed doors and in the locker room.”
Salyers, one of the few veterans on the team, said she is constantly trying to support her teammates, especially the younger players on the court, throughout every match.
“If they make a mistake, I just say, ‘You’ve got this’ and other positive things, because they know they can do it, and I know they can,” Salyers said. “I just have to have trust in them, and then they’ll trust me with the things I’m saying to help them.”
UIndy faces off against the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers on Sept. 30 in Ruth Lilly. The match is set to start at 7 p.m.