USD volleyball reaches No. 10 in rankings
With high energy and a large supporting home crowd, the No. 15 ranked University of San Diego women’s volleyball team won its home opener against the University of California Irvine (UCI) Anteaters on Thursday, Sept. 8.
The victory came in a four set match with the final set score of 3-1. A pair of wins over members of the Pacific-12 Conference has since vaulted the Toreros to the No. 10 spot in the national rankings.
As they opened their home schedule, the Toreros were returning from a huge win against Stanford. They followed that up with losses to the third-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Wisconsin Badgers, before defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Head coach Jennifer Petrie explained that she believes beating the Anteaters will set the pace for the rest of the season, as well as show the rest of the division just how strong this team will be this year.
“Winning our opening match against Stanford gave our team confidence that will carry them through the entire 2016 season,” Petrie said. “Knowing that we can compete at the highest level and win prepares us for not only a WCC championship, but an NCAA championship as well.”
This recent win brings the Toreros’ overall record to 3-2. The match against the Anteaters also set some early season records, with three team members recording double-digit kills and senior libero Hunter Jennings setting a personal record for herself with 19 digs. The offense was led by senior Lauren Schad with 14 kills, senior Lisa Kramer with 14 kills, and junior Jayden Kennedy with 11 kills.
After some defensive struggles and opening jitters at the start of the match, the Toreros dropped the first set to UCI. Coach Petrie said that she felt that, even though they had some early butterflies, the overall strength of the roster enabled the women to step up and make a strong comeback in the remaining sets.
“Our team was so excited to finally be playing at home,” Petrie said. “Although we looked a bit frazzled at the beginning, the team kept their composure and showed the depth of our roster. With such a large team this year, we have many different players that can step up and make a difference.”
The team quickly bounced back with much more aggression in the second set. With better communication and great passing skills, they were able to tie it up in the second set to make the score 1-1. The third set seemed to be anybody’s game at the start, as Irvine looked to be controlling their defense and putting up great blocks at the net and digs in the court.
Junior middle blocker Kaity Edwards seemed to change the momentum with a run of well-placed serves and a few aces late in the third set. San Diego took the lead by winning the third set, thus putting them ahead by a score of 2-1.
The fourth set was thrilling right from the first point. After what seemed like a minute rally, with huge dives and players running way out of the court to keep the play alive, the Toreros gained the first point of the set. This caused a slight change of tactics, as there was much smarter play from our home team.
Offspeed, angled shots at the net and consistently great passing, granted the Toreros an easy 19-9 lead, while Irvine looked jumbled and increasingly frustrated. Junior outside hitter Merve Taynel was given a great set to put the match away with a kill and give her Toreros the fourth set to win the match 3-1.
Coach Petrie’s team has set a goal to be undefeated at home, and, so far, they’re off to a great start.
Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Fuller contributed greatly to the success over Irvine. Fuller stated that she felt confident after seeing the team’s fluidity and ball control.
“Coming off the bench and being put in serve receive is difficult because you’re not warm and still have those game jitters,” Fuller said. “But I was very happy I made an impact right away. I passed well which opened up hitters, like Schad and Kramer. The team was flowing; it was awesome to be a part of it.”
In regards to the rest of their season, Fuller explained that she believes the team fosters a great environment. They hope this year to make it to the West Coast Conference Tournament and the NCAA tournament.
“This year the team has even more firepower because the freshmen have added some more competition at practice, which prepares us well for matches,” Fuller said. “The upperclassmen on the team all have great experience in big matches, so it was great when we were playing a team like Stanford because they had been in those shoes and were able to lead us to a big win.”
Petrie has set some tough but achievable goals for the Toreros this season. She shared that she is looking forward to the conference matches and competing against some of the nation’s best teams.
“Our team prides itself on defense,” Petrie said. “Hard work, execution, and focus will win a conference title and help us attain our first goal of hosting the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. Any conference match will be a good one this season. In particular, we are looking forward to the Santa Clara, BYU, and LMU match ups.”
The weekend was an eventful one for the Toreros, as they knocked off the Colorado University Buffaloes and the seventh-ranked University of California, Los Angeles Bruins in front of their home crowd.
USD is joined at the top of the rankings by the Brigham Young University Cougars, their conference rivals and perhaps their biggest obstacle in reaching the NCAA Tournament.
The USD volleyball team will have a lot of competition this weekend in the USD/San Diego State Invitational, held from Sept. 16-17 in the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The Toreros will kick off the tournament with a match on Sept. 17 against the California State University, Fullerton Titans at 10:00 a.m., followed by a bout with the University of California, Santa Barbara Gauchos at 7:00 p.m.
Written by Dylan Brockmeyer, Contributor