Chris Conran, Staff Writer, @chrisconran
First appearing in print October 6, 2014.
Concluding a preseason in which the Wolverines squared off against five ranked teams, UVU women’s volleyball is eager to begin Western Athletic Conference competition.
The Wolverines’ preseason slate was one of toughest in the nation, with the highest ranked opponents being No. 5 Washington and No. 10 Brigham Young University.
UVU didn’t win a single set in the contests, but that has not slowed down the team’s stride.
These games did not go in favor of the Wolverines, but the experience versus some of the country’s best will help in the long-term and its effects may be seen in conference play. Their goal of making the NCAA tournament is still well in reach and it all starts with the first WAC opponent, Seattle U, the team that upset UVU in the league tournament last year as a 6 seed.
One of the big lessons the team learned from the preseason was the amount of intensity that top programs bring into every game. The nationally ranked teams play hard and fast from the get-go in order to force opponents to play catch-up the rest of the set.
“We were able to figure out what it’s going to take to make it to the NCAA tournament,” head coach Sam Atoa said.
A goal this year, as with every year, is to win the conference to earn an automatic bid to the big dance. Winning the WAC would secure the team with a place amongst the 64 teams competing to win the coveted national championship, captured last year by Penn State.
The UVU community watched as the softball team gained its first automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals.
While women’s volleyball faced top opponents, the team found out it needs to improve on as well. Just like any other sport, success starts with consistency.
“If we can get consistent in competing, composure and communication, then we will be in good shape,” Atoa said.
The women enter WAC play at 5-9 after some tough losses leading up to their first conference game, but the lessons learned will be valuable as the season progresses.
Some improvements have already shown, like when the Wolverines left the La Quinta Inn & Suites Invitational with a winning record.
They went 2-1, losing their first game to Idaho, but then bounced back to win against both UC Riverside and Portland.
“We are ready as ever to get going,” senior captain Cassie Wahlin said. “We’ve had great intensity in our practices and now it’s time to turn all the hard work into wins.”
The athletes hold high expectations for themselves that the tough schedule and harder practices will pay off as crunch time starts with the beginning of conference play.
Atoa hopes that the women can rise to the challenge to win the hard-fought battles expected against early WAC opponents.
The key to success will come as the volleyball players recognize the level of play they need to reach in order to win.