Volleyball seeks to net quick start in conference play
Since their final preconference-play tournament concluded last weekend at Rice University, the volleyball team is ready for their remaining 20 matches against American Athletic Conference opponents.
After finishing 9-11 in conference play last season, the Cougars will try to start 1-0 when they travel to the University of Connecticut on Friday. The trip will mark the first time they’ve truly gone on the road this season.
The Huskies enter conference play at 9-2 and are winners of two straight games — all while leading the conference in hitting percentage, kills and assists per set. Using their quick-paced attack and size, the team’s impressive start has surprised many.
“They run a pretty fast offense and they’re pretty big, so I think it’s about us being disciplined on our side of the net to be able to run our system clean,” head coach Kaddie Platt said. “We’re a tough serving team and I think that will neutralize some of their offense.”
However, there are more high-caliber teams the Cougars should watch out for in the coming weeks. The East Carolina University Pirates and the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane already have 10 wins and will visit Houston later in the season.
After being named the preseason favorite, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats enter conference play with a 4-6 record, while the top-seven teams in the conference are 8-4 or better.
With multiple teams capable of competing in 2016, Platt said that the conference is “wide open.”
“There are a lot of good teams, similar to last year, when there were the top eight teams and any of them could’ve won it,” Platt said. “(Cincinnati) is definitely going to be a tough team, but UConn has also shown to be pretty strong along, with Temple and SMU.”
Road wins will be of utmost importance for the Cougars, as the team has a youthful roster this season.
Although made up of mostly underclassmen, Platt isn’t worried about the effects of traveling on her team. With conference play on the horizon, the Cougars will now have to adjust to playing away from Houston.
“They’ve all traveled a lot in high school these days with club ball and they’re traveling all over the nation,” Platt said. “It’s a little more helpful that they’ve had that experience at a younger age.”
‘One day at a time’
In addition to traveling experience, Platt said she can exercise more control over the team while on the road. She believes the game-day flow while traveling can have a multitude of benefits for the team.
Platt said that having structure during downtime while traveling would give the team plenty of rest and studying time before their match.
The team will attempt to get off to a quick start in conference play with a victory over the Huskies or the Temple University Owls this weekend. But in a conference as close as the American, every game has equal importance.
“It’s a long season, so if you can get wins early that’s really helpful, but last year it came down to the ending stretch as to who won the conference,” Platt said. “We want to get out and take care of matches in early conference, but it is a long season and every week it’ll be a battle.”
Last year, the Cougars started 3-0 in road conference play, but failed to capitalize in the latter parts of the season. Beginning the year with two wins away from home this weekend can give the team momentum in the early stages of conference play.
Similar to the mantra football’s head coach Tom Herman has established for his team of going 1-0 every day, Platt instills the importance of improving by one percent each day.
“We’ve got to manage our teams well and prepare to play each opponent. Each team has a different play style so we have to adjust week-to-week,” Platt said. “We’ve got to take it one day at a time.”