The volleyball team hits the road again for another Missouri Valley Conference weekend. Evansville heads to Missouri State tonight and travels to Wichita State for a Saturday night match.
The Aces are coming off their first Valley win of the season, a 3-1 set victory over Bradley. After getting off to a slow start in the first two sets against the Braves, UE dominated sets three and four to earn the victory. Junior Ashley Ring and sophomore Emma Roberson led the way in the victory, tallying 14 and 11 kills, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Aces are heading to face two of the best offenses in the conference. The Shockers are by far the best hitting team in the Valley, posting a .301 team hitting percentage, over 60 points higher than the next best team in the conference, while Missouri State is fourth (.225). Wichita State’s Ashley Andrade and Elizabeth Field own the best hitting percentages in the conference and Andrade is second in the conference in blocks per game.
I talked with senior libero Katie Klages and head coach Manolo Concepcion about the tough weekend ahead and how the team is improving after a 1-1 Valley slate last weekend.
Q: What’s the biggest takeaway from last weekend’s matches?
Klages: “I think we were really united and everyone worked together and everyone contributed, so just to take that in the rest of the games and just working hard in practice.”
Concepcion: “We’re adjusting well to the specific assignments that we have by player. That’s something we wanted to improve and let them know that in order to achieve better mental toughness as a team, we need more specific tasks for each of them and we need them to emphasizes and focus on those specific tasks. I think we got a lot better in that regard.”
Q: The defense played really well in the last two sets against Bradley. What was the key to the improvement?
Klages: “One of the big things we’ve been working with is the blocking sync and syncing with the defense. I think it went really well this weekend. It is getting better every time we work on it.”
Concepcion: “It got a lot more solid because serving got better. We learned how to serve a little bit tougher, so we’re getting opponents away from the net. It’s easier to read on the defense. (Wednesday) and (Thursday) we’re going to emphasize in blocking, so as long as we serve well and block well our defense is going to get better.”
Q: Do you think the team is prepared for the longevity and the toughness of the conference slate, especially facing two of the Valley’s best teams this weekend?
Klages: “I personally love it and I know everyone else does too. Every team is pretty even. It’s one of those conferences where any team can win on any given night and everyone’s right there neck and neck the whole time. I think it’s pretty exciting to play in.”
Concepcion: “We have two weekends in a row where we’re going to face the teams to beat, (as) people call them, so it’s going to be a good test and it’s going to be a situation where we have nothing to lose, literally. We’re going to the toughest crowd in the conference in Missouri State, so it’s going to be a week where we’re going to emphasize how we can control ourselves instead of worrying about everything around us.”
Q: So how have you been focusing on that this week?
Klages: “Just the simple things. Breaking everything down, focusing on the few things that each of us needs to bring to the table and contribute that will benefit the entire team as well.”
Concepcion: “We’re meeting a lot individually. We’re talking about, ‘this is what I want you to be thinking about, a specific technique, a specific strategy individually.’”