There is a time in every team’s season where their backs are against a wall, and they will do whatever is necessary to claw out a win.
The Virginia Tech Hokie volleyball team is in such a position this weekend.
The Hokies came in to October sporting a solid 11-4 record, including a win over No. 2 in the conference Miami and taking conference leader Florida State to five sets.
But the rest of the month has not been as kind, as the team has dropped its last four games. Now, with their record sitting at 11-8 and currently tied for seventh in the ACC, the Hokies are going to need a win now more than ever.
“Every game is important, although now we are in a tough spot,” said senior libero Morgan O’Neill. “This series is important because after two tough weekends we have something to prove to ourselves more than anything else.”
As the team looks to turn their season around, they just might be facing the teams to do it. This weekend, Tech plays host to Wake Forest and Duke, two teams that hover near the bottom of the ACC standings. Both teams are tied for second-to-last in the conference, and have not had great seasons.
Wake Forest is coming in to Blacksburg off their second conference win of the season, but the good thing for the Hokies is that it came against Duke. The Demon Deacons have lost eight of their last 10 matches, never once taking a team to the maximum five sets.
Wake has had trouble on defense, ranking last in opponent hitting percentage, which should open up some opportunities for the potent Hokie attack. Jennifer Wiker and Samantha Gostling are both in the top ten in the conference in kills, and after a slow series last weekend, they should be back on pace.
Duke actually comes in to Blacksburg with a record above .500 (11-10), but has also lost eight of its last 10 games. While they have had a much better season than Wake Forest – they took North Carolina to five sets – they have had their struggles as well. The Blue Devils have yet to find a consistent presence on offense or defense, usually having one but not the other in a single game.
The Hokies should be able to turn around their recent misfortunes, but what will it actually take for them to turn around this recent skid?
“It’s all about mental toughness, we have the skill and talent to play evenly with every team,” O’Neil said. “We just need to be ready to push back harder when we get into tough situations.”
The Hokies are trying to scratch their way back to the NCAA Tournament, which they made two years ago.
Last season, they found themselves in a similar losing streak, but instead of occurring in the beginning of October (halfway through the conference schedule) it happened in the beginning of November, and it cost them come tournament time.
This time, Tech has all of the tools — and time — to turn their season around. However, volleyball does not have postseason conference tournaments, so it is all about whether or not the Hokies can finish strong in this last month of the season.
A tall task, but for such a talented team this weekend just may be the spark that they need.