Head coach Jason Reed’s main focus during practice has been consistency, and it is showing. The women’s volleyball team went 1-1 against McKendree University and University of Illinois-Springfield this weekend.
On Sunday the women defeated Illinois Springfield in a three set sweep.
The team totaled nine team blocks and 58 digs overall with 14 of the digs coming from junior outside hitter Kacee Salyers, as well as 10 kills.
After maintaining the lead for most of the first set, the Prairie Stars attempted a comeback moving the score to 23-21 before Saylers and senior middle block Shelby Ruffner shut it down with two consecutive kills.
The Hounds fell victim to another short comeback by Illinois Springfield, but Ruffner showed up again to close out the last four points of the set with three kills and a block. The Hounds wrapped up the game in the third set with a close 25-23 score, solidifying the sweep over the Prairie Stars.
Before their win over the Prairie Stars, the team was defeated by the McKendree Bearcats in five sets. The team captured the first two sets before letting McKendree come back and take the next three for the win.
Junior outside hitter Kacee Salyers lead the team with 16 kills and two blocks while senior outside hitter Becca Lira had 9 kills and two blocks of her own.
“I’m more of an intense player,” Lira said. “I like to get into it, and I play pretty seriously. I like to yell, scream and get really excited after the play. But during the play, I stay pretty focused.”
Reed’s work in consistency has been primarily focused on defense, which he said the team had been lacking in prior to McKendree and UIS matches.
“I feel like our offensive side has gone well, more often than not, but we need to pick it up defensively. So that’s been a piece of what is helping us have some success. We just flat out needed to have a better defensive focus, dig more volleyballs,” he said. “I think [3-2] on these last two weeks is a testament that it[consistency] is working. We just have to continue with that process. We have yet to still turn the corner, but it’s coming.”
Lira has seen the defense-centered practices’ benefits pay off for the team, and for her personally as well.
“I feel like I’ve really improved,” Lira said, “specifically in the back row with my defense. We’ve just been focusing on being at the right spot at the right time and making a play.”
The Greyhounds proved that in their matchup against St. Joseph’s College on Oct. 4, clinching their 29th straight victory over the Pumas 3-0.
Freshman outside hitter Anna Fehribach led the Greyhounds with 12 digs and Lira closely followed with 11. According to the UIndy athletics website, UIndy averaged 17.33 digs per set, which was an improvement from their 12.51 average on the overall season.
The Pumas came out strong in the first two sets, according to the UIndy athletics website. St. Joe kicked off the match with a 4-0 lead, but it was not long before UIndy found a groove, taking its first lead in the middle of the set and continuing on to claim a 25-21 win. However, when the Greyhounds found themselves down 12-6 in the second, Reed called a timeout.
“They came out strong, and we had to battle back in those sets. Really, in both those sets, it was because of one rotation with a specific server, and we just couldn’t get a dig to get a kill,” Reed said. “She just really got us out of our system, and we couldn’t score. So calling a timeout was just to give a reminder like, ‘Hey, we have got to move our feet on the pass’ and really just to slow the momentum.”
The third and final match appeared much smoother for the Greyhounds, with an 8-2 run that brought them to a 17-12 lead. UIndy pushed farther to seal the win 25-17.
They Greyhounds also had statistically impressive offensive play with Lira, Fehribach and Salyers, each claiming nine kills.
The 29th consecutive win brought the Greyhounds’ win total to 87 out of the 95 times they have faced the Pumas. Although the victory was a great one, Lira said the streak was not a priority.
“We really weren’t thinking about the streak, we just went into it knowing that we wanted to win in three and get in and get out,” she said. “So we just went into the game worrying about ourselves and not really thinking about what was going to happen on the other side.”
Reed also was not thinking about the dominant history the Greyhounds had over the Pumas, rather just thinking about how UIndy was going to play.
“Maybe it’s something where we kind of know that we’ve had quite a bit of success against an opponent in the past, but at this point, there’s a lot of focus on us,” Reed said. “We need to keep having success on our side of the net, and so it really wasn’t in my mindset at all. It was about getting the W and trying to play our game a little bit better.”
The Greyhounds will hit the road again as they travel to the Midwest Region Crossover in Aurora, Ill. on Friday, Oct. 14.