The volleyball team is home at Carson Center for the first time all season. The Aces will host SIU Edwardsville, Valparaiso, and Memphis in a six-game tournament that will last through Saturday.
UE is coming off its second straight-set victory over Murray State this season, beating the Racers on Tuesday night. Though the Aces won 3-0, the match was closer, with each set going down to the wire. Evansville won all three sets closely, 28-26, 25-21, 28-26.
The Aces will face SIU Edwardsville first, who is 2-4 and coming off the Omaha Classic, where it picked up two wins over Southern Utah and Omaha before dropping a close, 3-2 contest to Bradley. Memphis is 4-2 entering the weekend, and Valparaiso is a strong 8-0 after winning the Popcorn Classic last weekend.
Junior Ashley Ring leads UE’s offense after posting a game-high 16 kills and 24 digs in the win over Murray State. Meaghan Holmes and Rachel TenHoor, as each posted double-digit kills and hitting percentages just under .400.
I talked with Ring, Holmes, and head coach Manolo Concepcion earlier this week to discuss the takeaways from the victory over Murray State and what the plan is heading into the weekend.
Q: First off, how nice will it be to play at home for the first time all season?
Ring: “I’m so happy to be home, to have our home opener. We have all the other sports here, so they can come watch us, we can go watch them, so there’s a lot of people around that can come watch the games so that’ll be nice.”
Concepcion: “I think they’re relieved, as well. It’s been a long, long preseason so it’s good to be back home and I know it’s going to be exciting for them, too, to play in front of their fans.”
Q: Against Murray State, you won a lot of long rallies. SIUE and Valparaiso play similarly by keeping the games close. How will your last match prepare you for the longevity of the weekend?
Holmes: “I think winning the long rallies gave us as much momentum as a big kill or a huge block because we fought hard for that point. It helps us with the mental aspect of the game especially when it’s really tight and really into the game. Having that extra ‘umph’ to push through and get those two points to win the game.”
Concepcion: “Before the game we actually talked about the two percent theory — it only takes two percent to be better than the opponent. So can we actually take care of the easy actions? And they figured out, especially in pressure situations: can you take care of the free balls, can you take care of those one-on-one situations, can you take care of those situations that you can control, like serving? They just waited the opponent’s mistakes and it was good to finally see them realize it actually works.”
Ring: “It was great to pull that out, especially since we stayed disciplined throughout the entire rallies and that’s what we’ve been pushing for: staying disciplined in everything, especially in those long rallies, when we are getting tired and the other team is tired, just to stay disciplined so we can get the points.”
Q: The front line has been a strong point in the past couple of matches. How has that helped the confidence of the team?
Concepcion: “What we’re seeing is, we want our No. 12 player to feel that she can be the No. 1 player. You’re seeing that, when you’re talking about Meaghan Holmes, when she got here this preseason she was the third middle. Now she’s our No.1 middle. Ashley got a lot of load defensively, but we had kids who probably had four or five kills in the right situations.”
Holmes: “The more that we practice on it, the more we work on it in here, the more, I personally feel like I have more confidence in them because I see it in practice.”
Ring: “Our coaches have complete trust in us and confidence in our abilities to play and that is really helpful, too. It’s one thing to have confidence in yourselves and your teammates, but when your coaches have it, it’s that extra push.”
Q: What are a couple of goals that you have for the weekend?
Ring: “I think, like always, we want to make sure that we’re in sync with our front row and back row with that defense, making sure that we’re moving the right way. Right now we’re working on specific situations like if they’re hitting from here, like a Valpo middle is hitting a 31, we know how to read around that situation where we have to be in relationship to each other, to the block, all of that.”
Concepcion: “Can we get a lower number of unforced errors? That would be a great sign of improvement. Can we actually perform in certain situations? Can we actually keep the lead? Those will be things we will be emphasizing.”