By Adam Duke
After a terrific opening, starting 3-0, with a 2-0 conference record, the Canisius volleyball team struggled at the beginning of October, hitting a rough patch of three matches. Last weekend, however, the Griffs swept St. Peter’s and put up a fight against number one Rider, bouncing back and shifting the momentum in their favor going into three upcoming matches at home.
The Griffs have reached the midpoint of the season and are currently sitting just below .500 in conference play at 4-5. As Coach Cathy Hummel stated, “When you consider that we’re ten collective points out of being 6-3, and that we’re losing sets by 2 points, and those are small things, but we’ve been competitive.” She continued, “The girls are working hard and they have a strong belief in their abilities. We haven’t waivered from that, the results just haven’t really gone our way.
As Hummel pointed out, the team has lost several sets by very few points. They have maintained a competitive mentality and are working to use that competitiveness as well as their experience from the first half of the season to their advantage going into the second half. Middle hitter Lauren Siebert alluded to this, saying, “Using the results from the first time through, we know we can do better than that, and that will be a motivation, a fire for us, going through the second time.” Outside hitter Rachel Kline agreed, mentioning, “We’ve got a good idea of how we match up against the teams,” she said, “We can focus on what it takes from us to beat a specific team and we can focus on each game separately.”
This past weekend, the Griffs split matches, sweeping St. Peter’s and falling to number one ranked Rider 1-3. Kline, who had a double-double against St. Peter’s, recording 10 kills and 12 digs, described how, “It was a big turnaround factor.” She indicated that despite the absence of senior setter Grace Streicher, the team was still able to persevere through and, “With Julia (Hrycyk) setting, it showed we can bring ourselves together to beat a team with a variety of different players.”
In the second match, against Rider, the team fought valiantly and despite the inability to pull out the win, they showed their willingness to compete with the best team in the conference. Siebert recorded double digit kills against both St. Peter’s and Rider, with 11 and 13, respectively. Regarding the loss to Rider, she stated, “Even though we did lose, it was a good game.” She then went on to say, “The fact that we could compete with the number one seed right now, it wasn’t a bad thing for us, it wasn’t like a defeat at all. If anything, it inspired us to keep going.”
This week, the team has been preparing to face Iona and Manhattan once again, this time at home. Coach Hummel commented, “We don’t change too much of our approach for each opponent. We’ll pull out some tendencies that we got burnt by last time, but in a lot of ways, we’re better than we were four weeks ago.” She then acknowledged, “so are Iona and Manhattan so we just work on our gameplan and make what we do solid and reliable.” Rachel Kline put up 14 kills and 10 digs against Manhattan and 9 kills and 10 digs against Iona. Concerning the upcoming matches, she said, “With both teams, we didn’t play our best matches. We watch film from both matches and we know more specifically, which matchups need to be consistent in order to beat both teams.
Coach Hummel stressed that there are three keys to finishing the regular season strong. She indicated, “We need to get a break every now and then, that’s part of it.” The second key to finishing strong is winning critical points and breaking through pressure. She then stated that the team needs to not worry about wins and losses because, “The conference is so close, you can’t predict what’s going to happen with any team.”
Leading up to the MAAC championship, Siebert asserted, “We need to all be on the same page, because a lot of times, ‘this person’s having a good game, this person’s having a bad game.’ Everyone needs to have a good game at the same time. And energy- we need a more consistent energy.” Coach Hummel reiterated her point of playing it one match at a time, saying, “We work on the common goal every day, and that’s to win volleyball matches. If our record doesn’t get us into the conference championship, we’ll have to go back and analyze every single match, set, and point, but right now, we’re just worrying about playing match by match.”
With a competitive attitude and determination, the volleyball team heads into the second half of the season with their eyes set on the long term goal of MAAC Championship. “My hope is to enjoy the last nine matches one at a time,” said Hummel, hammering home her point that in order to attain this long term goal, the Griffs must first focus on the immediate challenge.