Volleyball shows resolve but resolves two
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 17:09
For a team that had yet to show any mental toughness, Friday’s loss to Drake was a step forward for the UNO volleyball team. Coaches and players don’t like to talk about moral victories.
But after taking the first set, falling just short in the second and completely unraveling in the third, the response from the Mavs showed something.
“We emotionally let down in the second set,” Head Coach Rose Shires said. “It took us a long time to get back. We let them pick up their match and I was so pleased with how our team fought back. They put forth a great effort in that match tonight.”
The Mavs won the first set 25-18, dropped the next two 25-20 and 25-15, fought back in the fourth for a 26-24 win and let the fifth slip away 15-13. With the loss Friday and a three-set sweep at no. 11 Kansas State on Saturday, UNO drops to 5-9 on the season, and remain 0-2 in conference play.
“We were really strong in the first set,” senior outside hitter Natalie Ebke said. “I don’t know if our focus left a little bit, but we didn’t doubt that we were gonna pull it out and get to five.”
The last time UNO took the court, the Mavs opened their inaugural trip through The Summit League. The results weren’t promising. Facing South Dakota State and North Dakota State in back-to-back nights, the Mavs were swept in straight sets.
Though SDSU and NDSU are expected to contend for the conference crown, UNO gave away a lot of free points. Afterwards the frustration on Shires’ face was obvious.
But at the start of Friday’s match with Drake, the roles were reversed. When the Mavs took the first set 25-18, the Bulldogs looked like the 0-11 record they brought to Omaha.
UNO blocked the Bulldogs four times, benefitted from nine Drake errors and had as much as an eight point lead at 19-11. But then the roller coaster ride began.
In the second set, the Mavs had a hitting percentage of just .083 and committed nine errors of their own, including three service errors.
Yet, for everything that went wrong, the Mavs were within two, 20-18, late in the set.
“We just lost our focus and we need to stay mentally mature and stay focused through the entire match,” Shires said.
That focus seemed lost and in no hope of return after a disastrous third set. Before the set was five minutes old, Drake had jumped out to a 10-3 lead.
UNO hit a reasonable .179, but bad passes and poor setting only allowed the Mavs to convert 41 percent of their sideout opportunities.
A four-set loss looked inevitable. UNO trailed by as much as 12-6, but fought back to get even 17-17. A hitting error by Ebke put the Bulldogs up 23-20 and Shires took a timeout.
The Mavs got the next point out of the timeout but a kill by Drake had the Bulldogs at match point. Just when Shires’ team should have folded, UNO found the mettle to save three match points and scored five in a row to win the set 26-24.
Ebke finished with 12 kills, 14 digs and said her team’s ability to force a fifth set shows the Mavs are growing every time they’re on the floor.
“We may not be winning but I think people are starting to learn how to fight to the end,” Ebke said. “When something goes wrong not to let it all fall apart. We got crushed and we still came back and won the next set.”
In the fifth, UNO trailed before tying it 8-8 and getting within three points of a win at 12-10. But after a Drake timeout, senior Amy Roberts’ service error shortened that lead to 12-11.
The Bulldogs aced their serve and watched as Ebke hit her next two attacks out, putting Drake in another match point situation. Ebke produced a kill on the next point but the Mavs couldn’t save another and dropped the set and the match.
UNO freshman outside hitter Kelly Wollak led the team with 17 kills and 22 digs for a career-first double-double. The next afternoon in Manhattan, Kan., Ebke led the way with 11 kills and five digs.
“I think where you find it is you get better every time you’re on the floor,” Shires said. “Tonight their performance was better than the last time we were on the floor against North Dakota State and South Dakota State, I felt like we performed at a higher level consistently. I was pleased with what we did.”