USD volleyball is reaching new heights
Late season disappointment has been a common theme for the University of San Diego volleyball team in recent seasons. The team has a reputation for dominating during the regular season, only to fall short under the bright lights and stiffer competition of the NCAA tournament.
Let it be known that the team’s legacy may soon be changing for the better.
The 2016 version of the team, buoyed by an impressive batch of seniors, has led the volleyball program to new heights this year. Currently holding a record of 11-2 and sitting at No. 7 nationally, the team is now beginning to look like a serious threat to make some noise come tournament time.
Their run of success has been most noticeably marked by surprising dominance. The team has swept each of its last five matches, including a snatching of the San Diego throne from the crosstown rival San Diego State University Aztecs last Tuesday and back-to-back wins over the University of San Francisco Dons and Santa Clara Broncos to open up conference play over the weekend. In fact, the team hasn’t even lost a match since an early-season matchup on the road against No. 2 Wisconsin, running off nine straight wins against a variety of quality opponents across the nation.
Senior libero Hunter Jennings, whose hustle stands out on each and every play, noted how different this team feels from previous iterations.
“This is definitely the most consistent team we’ve ever had,” Jennings said. “To be in the top ten and to keep working our way up is huge.”
Unfortunately, when a team is as dominant as the Lady Toreros have proven to be, the tendency is to start to become too casual and rely on talent to get by. As a result, these teams can sometimes lack some of the grit and drive that can take a program to the top. Luckily for the USD faithful, that is not the case with this team.
The Toreros opened the season down two sets to the 11th-ranked Stanford University Cardinal in Palo Alto, Calif. Where many teams might have folded, USD dug in, clawing its way back and ultimately pulling off the upset against one of the West Coast’s top programs.
Senior outside hitter Lisa Kramer, whose partnership with fellow senior Lauren Schad gets more dangerous with every lofted Torero set, recognized the dangers that can accompany dominance. She explained that she is confident that the Toreros have what it takes to push through.
“The biggest thing right now is to just continue to push ourselves in practice,” Kramer said. “If we can keep playing our game and not lower ourselves…when we play teams that may not be as good as us, that’ll allow us to maintain our intensity and play like we’re a top-ten program.”
The biggest difference between this season and previous ones, is the success that the team has enjoyed against powerhouse West Coast programs that they’ve traditionally struggled against. Aside from the aforementioned upset win over Stanford, the team has also enjoyed wins over University of California, Irvine, University of Colorado, California State University, Long Beach, and, most notably, University of California, Los Angeles in the championship game of the USD Invitational under the friendly roof of the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
Head coach Jennifer Petrie attributed part of this success to the leadership of this year’s graduating class.
“We have a lot of veterans on the team that have been there and done that,” Fisher said. “They’re not afraid of the big situation, but, even more than that, they believe in our system and in what we’re doing, and it shows when they play.”
While they may still be battling for attention on the sun-soaked campus of USD, the volleyball team has no shortage of fans around the country. Led by seniors Schad, Jennings, and Kramer, a truly special season could be in store for the small, Catholic school on the hill. You won’t want to miss it.
Written by Noah Hilton, Contributor