By JEANINE BIGGS
UT Volleyball completed a decisive sweep at the South Region Crossover tournament in Birmingham, Alabama on Friday Oct. 13 and 14. Winning all three of their games over the two day tournament, the Spartans left Alabama on a high. Having a slow start to the season, with a record of 5-10 going into the weekend, wins were crucial in raising the young team’s confidence.
“This tournament should help our confidence in a big way,” said assistant coach Brian Imperiale. “We played more consistent and we’ve had some players start to perform at higher level. We’re a pretty young team that is gaining experience as we go, so this weekend should be a big boost.”
Taking on Shorter University in their first match of the tournament, the Spartans won the best of four closely played sets 3-1 with freshmen Sorrel Houghton and Nylah Demps leading the team to victory offensively. With their first game being the closest of the weekend in terms of result, they were ready when they took on the Valdosta State Blazers later on in the day.
“Knowing that my coaches and teammates trust in me enough to have me on the floor is a great feeling,” Demps said. “It makes me want to work that much harder so that I don’t let them down.We have such a great group of girls that work really hard day in and day out.”
Having two matches in a day could make the tournament more difficult, but the ladies took it in their stride. The possibility of fatigue from travel and three games in two days didn’t seem to affect the team, it pushed them forward. Winning the match 3 sets to 0, the team got the result they wanted.
“Tournaments like this take us out of our comfort zone,” said Demps. “We play unfamiliar teams in an unfamiliar atmosphere. I think it forces us to focus on us as a team and executing the gameplan that the coaches put in place for us. It showed us outside competition and their strategies which is always something we can learn from.”
Rolling into Saturday with two wins under their belt, the girls set their sights on their final game of the weekend against the University of West Alabama Tigers. With a decisive win 3-0, the Spartans outplayed the Gulf South Conference #3 seed with a total of 43-28 kills, 41-32 digs, and 38-27 assists. With their win against the Tigers, the team extended their winning streak against the Alabama school with an all-time record of 4-0.
“We took on the No. 3 seed from the Gulf South Conference in West Alabama and we dominated them in the first set 25-9,” said Imperiale. “We’ve known all along that we’ve had talent but it’s just all about working hard day in, day out to reach our potential. Our players are definitely putting in the extra work and we’re starting to see that work pay off.”
With a lackluster start to the season, the results coming off this weekend will benefit the team in not only confidence but experience as well. Playing back to back games can be hard on a team, but the quick turn around and time to reflect on their play gives the team a new kind of feedback on what they need to improve going forward. The Spartans are looking to keep the winning streak going as they head into the rest of the season ahead of them, hoping to make a run for playoffs.
“Right now, we’re still on the outside looking out,” said Imperiale. “We started 3-10 and we’ve now worked our way back to 8-10. We need to be .500 or better just to be eligible to make postseason play. We are currently tied for 6th in conference but we have 13 matches left to play. We need to continue to improve all areas but blocking and defense are two facets we’ve been spending a ton of time on at practice.”
Jeanine Biggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org