Running on empty
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 19:10
An emotional five-set loss to Fort Wayne on Friday drained UNO and the Mavs had little left in the tank for Saturday, losing to Oakland in four sets. Dropping two straight extended UNO’s losing streak to three games and the Mavs remain at the bottom of the Summit League at 6-13, 1-6 in conference.
Despite the back-to-back losses, UNO might have played some of its best volleyball of the season.
“In the match against Fort Wayne we played absolutely phenomenal,” Coach Rose Shires said. “We played the best match we’ve played, honestly, in the last decade that any one of my teams have played. To take the first place team and do what we did and to play at that level, I was extremely proud.”
Against IPFW the Mavs pushed the conference leader to the brink more than once. UNO took the first two sets and had late leads in the fourth and fifth set, but couldn’t close the deal.
It appeared the Mavs had rebounded from that letdown the next night, winning the first set against Oakland convincingly. UNO had another late lead in the second set but let it slip away and had nothing left in the third or fourth.
“Honestly, they laid every ounce of energy they had out on the floor last night,” Shires said after the loss to Oakland. The way we played in the first set against Oakland is the way we played last night, and we just ran out of gas, emotional gas and a little bit of physical gas and we couldn’t finish sharp.”
Finishing has been a problem more than once this season. Friday night against IPFW that weakness prevented a potentially encouraging upset.
UNO won the first set 26-24 by saving a set point and taking the last three in a row. In the second the Mavs started in an 8-1 hole but forced a tie at 15-15 and finished off the Mastodons 25-20.
But in the third, clinging to a 23-22 lead, UNO committed errors on three of the next five points and fell 26-24. The Mavs had match point 25-24 in the fourth, but IPFW won the next two points, and eventually the set, 29-27.
UNO had yet another match point 19-18 in the fifth, but another error was followed by three straight from the Mastodons to take the set and the match 21-19.
“Last night we got down 8-0, 8-1 and came back and won that set,” Shires said Saturday. “There was no panic there was just…I know what I need to know and I’m doing it.”
That stood in stark contrast to Saturday when the Mavs seemed to be cruising then the bottom fell out. The Mavs began the night hitting .229, dropping in five service aces and blocking three shots. After a 25-21 first set win, it looked as if Oakland might be swept off the court.
But the inability to finish caught up with UNO again in the second set. The Mavs were only three points away from taking a two set lead and had a 22-13 cushion.
But two aces by the Golden Grizzlies and four UNO errors spurred Oakland to a 12-1 run and a 25-23 set win. After that let down the Mavs never found it again, dropping the third 25-19 and the fourth 25-20.
“Tonight when we had a few errors the bottom kept falling out,” Shires said. “It was one of those things that when you have a young team you have to learn how to sustain that high energy.”
The roller coaster of emotions the Mavs often go on might help explain the inconsistent play from one match to the next. Shires said that most of the things her team needs to learn simply can’t be taught in practice.
Young players often have difficulty staying in tune with the match for long periods of time. With so many freshmen on the floor, it’s even harder to stay together collectively.
“It’s Murphy’s Law whoever is not mentally checked in at that moment, that’s where the ball is gonna go,” Shires said. “You can’t take a break but emotionally all the kids need a break at some point. Today they literally physically and emotionally laid it out there.”