With preseason jitters out of the way, the Virginia Tech volleyball team is ready to play in its second tournament of the season.
The team heads to the Middle Tennessee Invitational this weekend to face off against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State and University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Coming off of a 3-1 performance and the Hokie Invitational tournament title, the team is looking for their second tournament win of the season.
Head coach Chris Riley said that having consistent serving and attack efficiency will be two main keys for the team’s success this weekend.
“If we hit over .250 and have minimal service errors, we can come home with a 4-0 record,” Riley said. “If we hit under .250 and make errors we may come home 2-2.”
To go along with the size and depth of the team, Riley has established a high-tempo offense, a combination that Riley feels works best for the personnel he has.
“We are athletic. We aren’t the biggest team in the country, so establishing a quick tempo has been helpful in our success so far,” Riley said.
This quick tempo has allowed them to separate the opposing team’s blocker, creating one-on-one opportunities for Tech to capitalize on.
“When we are in system, playing our game, we are unstoppable,” senior setter Jordan Fish said.
However, this fast-paced tempo also comes with greater risks.
“The offense we run comes with high risks and high rewards,” junior right side and middle block Kathryn Caine said. “Because of our fast paced tempo we, as hitters, sometimes have a harder time to contact the ball just right.”
The Hokies have to focus more on eliminating the errors that come as a result of running this style of offense. This week Caine said that the team has been playing plus-minus games, where they earn points when they do something well, but lose points when they commit errors.
In addition to focusing on fewer errors, the team has also been paying special attention to serving this week.
“Serving cost us the last game against Michigan State,” Riley said. “We were down 12-13, they were in their worst rotation, and we served the ball out of bounds. If that ball would have been in bounds we would have won the game.”
This weekend the team will have to be on its game when it comes to playing Middle Tennessee State.
“Middle Tennessee State has a fast offense,” senior middle block Victoria Hamsher said. “We have been working on playing a fast defense to stay with their level of offense.”
This tournament will mark the first road trip for the team. Riley said it would be a test to see how good the Hokies actually are.
“We’ll have a chance to win if we play well,” Riley said. “The competition won’t be as strong as last week’s, but it will still be very good.”
New seasons present new teams with unknown identities. It’s generally the teams that discover their identities the fastest that have the most success.
“Last weekend we figured out what we are best at,” Riley said. “This weekend we want to know what type of game we play.”
Once mastered, the Hokies’ game-plan figures to be one that can compete with any team in the very difficult ACC.
“Our goal remains the same every year; we want to go to the NCAA tournament,” Hamsher said.
For this goal to remain alive, the Hokies will have to finish in the top five of the ACC this season. The team no longer has to face Miami or Florida State twice due to conference realignment; however, the team will have to match up against ACC newcomers Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame, who all consistently appear in the NCAA tournament.
For now though, the team will stay focused on the things they can control — playing well and bringing home a tournament win.