The women’s volleyball team will begin competition and conference play this weekend after 11 days of rest.
The team was ready for a road trip, which would have included four games in five days, until their momentum came to a screeching halt the next Tuesday in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
|“They’ve lost their edge a little bit from not playing, but everyone has. I think we’re ready to play,”
The last time the Owls competed was on Sept. 8, when the team won the Temple Invitational Tournament.
“It’s almost like we’re starting the season over,” said Coach Bob Bertucci.
Now comes the question of whether or not the Owls are ready to get back to playing volleyball and if they are up for the task of seven consecutive conference games.
“I think we’re pretty focused. I think the break let us come back to where we need to be,” said senior middle blocker Christine Happel.
During the 11-day break the team has been somewhat able to keep to their schedule with practices on Saturday and extended practices during the past week.
“They’ve lost their edge a little bit from not playing, but everyone has. I think we’re ready to play,” Bertucci said.
The Owls will have to bring their A-game on Friday as they will square off with the University of Rhode Island (2-6), a team coming off of three hard fought losses to nationally ranked schools.
URI has been led by freshman standout Brooke Ecklund, who received Atlantic-10 Co-Rookie of the Week honors after posting 26 kills and 18 digs against Texas Pan-American.
URI also has another powerful player, senior Yoland Bogacz, who is the teams top outside hitter.
“I think URI is going to be a good team and I am glad we face them at home first,” Bertucci said. “We’re most likely going to double team their two top hitters.”
One part of the game the team had been practicing this week is passing and setting, which will play an important role this weekend.
“We haven’t emphasized passing the last week and a half so the past few days we’ve been working on that really hard so we can have that stable for our conference matches,” Bertucci said.
After the URI match the team and coaching staff will head back to the film room to see what needs to be altered for their next opponent, the University of Massachusetts, on Saturday. On Tuesday the Owls will head up Broad Street for a match against La Salle, then return to McGonigle Hall for a match against Duquesne University next Saturday.
“Duquesne had a great recruiting year and I think they’ll be stronger than they ever have before,” Bertucci said. “But I am still anticipating U. Mass and URI to be a notch ahead of us. I think this weekend is going to tell us a lot about how the conference is going to be and how competitive it will be and I do expect six teams to be battling it out for the title.”
Only eight games into the season, the Owls must treat the next few weeks as a giant test. They will need to familiarize themselves with opponents they will most likely face in the postseason as they look to distance themselves from the rest of the A-10 Conference.
“It’s not do or die, but it’s an important part of the season. Our out-of-conference play is just to get us prepared for our conference play,” Bertucci said. “For us as a coaching staff we’ve done everything we could to get this team prepared for conference play. I think we’re moving along very well after our last week of competition and I am hoping the girls can respond and get things going.”