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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Sports

Volleyball serves up impressive start to season


Louisiana vs Houston

The volleyball team is now 4-2 on the season with second place finishes in each of their first two tournaments. | Courtesy of Juan DeLeon

Heading into this weekend’s Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup with a 4-2 record, the volleyball team will continue its strong start that has featured two second-place finishes in each of the season’s first two tournaments.

After going 2-1 at the Houston Baptist Tournament on Aug. 26, the Cougars followed with another 2-1 performance at last weekend’s Houston Cougar Classic. Weber State and Idaho State universities, the eventual tournament champions, each delivered a loss to the team.

Despite featuring a roster with nine freshmen and 14 underclassmen, the team has played with a veteran’s poise, never blinking or backing down in adversity.

“We have composure under pressure and that will help us in the long run,” said head coach Kaddie Platt. “When the pressure is on, we’ve got to take big swings, be less careful and swing to score.”

Preparation is key

Resilience was on display over the weekend in the Houston Cougar Classic.

In their first match of the tournament against Texas Southern University, the team dropped the first set but rebounded and swept the next three sets for the victory. As for the Classic’s last match, the Cougars battled back from being down 1-2 to beat Lamar University by a final of 3-2 in a back-and-forth five-set contest.

The Cougars know that instilling tenacious habits into young players is paramount to improving and getting to where they want to be at the season’s end.

“We’re really hard workers and ready to grind when we need to. (We are) working hard and really well together,” said junior outside hitter Sarah Afflerbaugh.

Afflerbaugh has stepped her game up in her third season: She leads the team in kills in their last two matches and is third on the team in the category for the season.

Named to the Cougar Classic all-tournament team with sophomore right side Chenelle Walker, Afflerbaugh knows what the Cougars can do to improve.

“We need to work on cutting down our errors in the game,” Afflerbaugh said. “Once we do that and make all the balls playable in the game, that’ll (increase) our chances of beating a lot of teams this season.”

Onward and upward

With experience and leadership comes the knowledge that, sometimes, losses are just as important as wins for team growth. Although the Cougars have a youthful squad, the upperclassmen’s wisdom has helped the team rebound from close losses in 2016.

In order to stay sharp with a youthful team, head coach Platt recognizes that her players must perfect the basics.

“We’re pretty young and it’s good to see some young players in there getting a lot of experience,” Platt said. “You can’t replicate the pressure of a match in any practice session. We need to get to a point where our serving and passing are consistent and staying in our game plans.”

Statistics and records only reveal so much, especially in a sport like volleyball where a team’s chemistry and communication is just as important as any other aspect of the game.

Even without Brookah Palmer, the All-American Athletic Conference First Team player who was injured, the Cougars have shown flashes of greatness. They displayed just what this team is capable of at their best.

“We’ve worked really hard these last four weeks in the preseason and I expect nothing but the best from this team,” Afflerbaugh said. “We’re off to a pretty good start.”

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