Entering last weekend’s Louisville Classic, the Virginia Tech volleyball team had experienced defeat just once in the young 2013 season, at the hands of 14th ranked Michigan State.
After decisive victories in the first two matchups of the weekend against Rice and Bowling Green, winning in three sets both times, the Hokies took on Louisville—a team that the program hadn’t faced off within over 18 years.
After taking a 2-1 lead in a long, hard-fought third set, ending with a 36-34 Hokie advantage, Tech dropped its final two sets, losing to Louisville 3-2.
In a hostile environment, the girls on the team found themselves rattled and their performance suffered as the noisy crowd got the better of them.
“The crowd was crazy,” said senior outside hitter Samantha Gostling. “I’ve never played in an environment like that and I think we all just lost focus.”
In addition to the loss, the Hokies committed 27 errors, just two shy of their season high.
These errors must be eliminated moving forward if the Hokies plan to be competitive down the stretch as conference play commences. However, the team believes the issue within its control.
“All of our errors were self-induced,” said head coach Chris Riley. “It’s all stuff we can correct and get better from.”
Get better they must, as the road ahead doesn’t get any easier.
From here, the Hokies will travel to Winston-Salem to take on an 11-1 Wake Forest team that historically has been a competitive matchup.
However, players on the team plan to thrive off of early-season experience to achieve success.
“As much as we wanted to win, it was good to lose,” said junior setter Jordan Fish. “It showed us what we really need to work on and I think that will help us going into ACC [play].”
After completing Friday night’s matchup against Wake Forest, the Hokies will travel to Durham for a Saturday night game against Duke.
The Blue Devils have put together a noteworthy 9-2 record heading into ACC play, including an impressive victory over 16th ranked Illinois last Saturday.
The team, however, doesn’t feel any anxiety about the increased stakes. In fact, they embrace it. Furthermore, they are strong proponents of the idea that, they’re their own greatest help or own worst enemy.
“The familiarity with in-conference opponents helps but our preparation doesn’t change,” said Riley. “Our preparation is 85% our side of the net and 15% their side of the net.”
The players are all on board with the “us” mentality rather than focusing on the other team. They believe that when they play their game they can compete with anyone.
“In previous years we’ve focused on what the other team is doing,” said Fish. “We’re more focusing on us this year, rather than the competition.”
The high-paced offense that Riley stresses oftentimes produces errors as a by-product, but the team continues to maintain its strive for perfection and consistency.
“We need to eliminate serving errors and be able to serve and receive,” said Gostling. “We work every day in practice for consistency, to be the same team every time we step on the court.”
The Hokies will aim to achieve consistency in their difficult matchups this weekend.
They will take another road trip next weekend to face conference foes Pittsburgh and Maryland before returning home Oct. 11 to play Boston College.