The Virginia Tech volleyball team won their third consecutive tournament this weekend in front of fans in Cassell Coliseum.
“We had good energy this weekend,” junior middle block Latasha Samson-Akpan said. “We had a good overall tournament this weekend. Everything that we have been working on in practice has paid off and is on display right now.”
Tech is coming off of a stellar weekend at the Hokie Classic, which included sweeps of Duquesne and Lipscomb. With the win the Hokies improve to 9-1 on the season, marking their best start since 2009 when the team went 9-0 in the first three weeks of play.
“We played low error and didn’t give away too many free points,” head coach Chris Riley said. “We weren’t clean with our passing, but we played the game that allowed us to win.”
In their first match of the tournament the Hokies were trailing Lipscomb 15-10, but strung together a five-point run to pull back into and eventually take the game.
The rest of the weekend seemed to go the same way, with the Hokies fighting for every point they earned. Though they beat Lipscomb and Duquesne in three games and William and Mary in four, the team didn’t dominate as they have in the past two weekends.
“We didn’t play well in any of the matches this weekend,” Riley said. “We can keep getting better. We played better last weekend.”
The Hokies built a seven-point lead against Duquesne but numerous errors allowed the Dukes to gain momentum and come back into the match. The Dukes went on a 6-0 run, pulling the score within one before freshman outside hitter Lindsey Owens smacked back-to-back kills to give the Hokies a little more breathing room.
“They started serving tougher,” Riley said. “We didn’t handle the ball well, it allows teams to come back. We gave them too many free points.”
Tech cleaned its act up in the rest of the match committing only four errors over two games, compared to the six they committed in the first game.
“We have to be much more stable with our blocks,” Riley said. “We also need to be cleaner at controlling the balls that we do defend and give us more options with our attack.”
Samson-Akpan was named the MVP of the tournament as she put up seven blocks and knocked down 21 kills for the weekend. Owens and junior middle blocker Kathryn Caine both made the all-tournament team as well. Owen tallied 31 kills and two blocks, and Cain notched 23 kills and one block over the course of the weekend.
“This coming weekend will be a great challenge for us before ACC play,” Samson-Akpan said. “Hopefully we will finish our preseason tournament play strong.”
This weekend Tech will have to be clean in every aspect of play when they head to the Louisville Classic to face Bowling Green, Rice and future ACC-powerhouse Louisville.
“(This weekend) will be a huge test for us and (will) let us see if we can play with the big leagues,” Caine said. “We need to be working on our low error game. We also need to be aggressive and play to win instead of being tentative.”
Though Louisville is currently only 2-6 on the season, they finished in the top 10 last season and had numerous players make the USA National A2 team, which went on to take the gold medal in Dallas over the summer. Rice and Bowling Green just are equally as good. Bowling Green finished first in the Mid-American Conference.
“Playing low error and being a better ball control team will be key against these teams,” Riley said.
The Hokies are set to open the weekend off against Rice at 3 p.m. Friday.