It’s a dozen games into the season and The University of Tampa volleyball team is riding high.With a record of 11-1 and 2-0 in the SSC, the Spartans are off to a surprising start.
UT is coming off a weekend of conference away victories at Lynn and Nova Southeastern, allowing the Spartans to retain their No. 5 ranking in the AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 Poll, for the third straight week.
The ranking serves as a long-term accomplishment for the team.
Under head coach Chris Catanach, UT has now been ranked in the top 25 for an incredible 181 consecutive weeks and in the top 10 for 60 weeks in a row.
The streaks date back prior to the team’s lone national championship season of 2006.
More impressively, the team’s only loss of the season came against defending national champion No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul in Denver.
Four of the team’s victories also came against ranked opponents, all on the road or at neutral sites. For Catanach, it’s a surprising start considering the team’s youth.
“I think we’re doing a little better than what I expected,” Catanach said. “I’m pretty excited to be in this position.”
The Spartans have 566 kills this season while allowing 485.
On the defensive side they have out dug their opponents by a 566-532 margin.
But the most impressive stat, perhaps, is their 71 aces to only 27 by the opposition.
Individually, the team has several statistical leaders. Junior outside hitter, Melissa Vanderhall, leads UT with 145 kills, while sophomore libero, Julie Howlett, dominates defensively with 142 digs.
Howlett is also the reigning Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player of the Week for her weekend performances, including a career-high 22 digs against NSU.
In addition to the better-than-expected development this year, the team plans to return most, if not all, of its nucleus next season since they have no seniors.
“We have a decent group,” Catanach said of the team’s evolving chemistry. “No one is being obtuse or stubborn.”
To further improve team chemistry, the team plans to take a trip to Europe during the offseason.
As the team bonds and improves they hope to continue reaping the rewards of success, something they have enjoyed for many years already.