After a slow start to the Mountaineer Invitational, the West Virginia University volleyball team came back to win the tournament in a decisive 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-21) victory over Loyola-Maryland, Saturday, at the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers improve to 2-1 after losing in the first round of the Mountaineer Invitational before coming back to defeat Central Connecticut State and the Greyhounds (2-1).
"It says a lot about this group that they bounced back and kept their head up and addressed the areas that they needed to," coach Jill Kramer says. "They fought hard to protect our home court again and we learned a lot about the group from the weekend and especially about simple things like effort and communication that on a consistent level what they can do for us."
The Mountaineers jumped to a quick 4-1 lead in the first set off of kills from freshman middle blocker Caleah Wells and a service ace from sophomore middle blocker Evyn McCoy. WVU continued to build their lead by capitalizing off of Greyhound errors until a late surge from Loyola-Maryland pulled the match within two. Freshman outside hitter Hannah Sackett put the Mountaineers back into control with a kill and a 5-0 serving run that led to WVU taking the first set 25-16.
With the momentum on their side, the Mountaineers used the strong offensive attack from McCoy to take a 17-9 lead in the second set. The Greyhounds would not let the set slip away and used a second timeout and two big scoring runs from Tina Catanach and Kara Schiffer to pull the match even at 19-19. WVU used kills from Sackett and Wells to gain an advantage and ultimately closed the set on a kill from freshman outside hitter Nikki Attea.
After gaining a 2-0 lead in the match, the Mountaineer defense came into play the third set and closed the match with four blocks and 17 team digs to take the set 25-21.
"We did a better job of managing our offensive numbers for the full set this match," Kramer says. "We came out strong and we sustained the pressure we put on them offensively in the second set as well. We had a lull in there where we had a big lead and we let off a little bit and let them back in and we have to learn from that and we have to continue to work towards sustaining a level of play for the entire match. We are learning that about our team and those are some things we will address in practice this week."
Sackett was named MVP of the Mountaineer Invitational and led WVU for the third match in a row with 15 kills and two service aces. Wells, also an all-tournament selection, recorded eight kills and zero errors for a .533 hitting percentage. Freshman setter Brittany Sample, who finished the tournament with 107 assists, 32 digs and four blocks, was also named to the all-tournament team.
WVU has a quick turnaround and will welcome its first Big 12 opponent to Morgantown on Wednesday, Aug. 29. The Mountaineers will take on the No. 2 Texas Longhorns at 6:30 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum.
"Monday, the focus is going to be on us 100 percent and our effort and communication. Those are the two things that we really have to improve upon still. On Tuesday, we will focus a little more on defending and attacking Texas and how we are going to do that. What we need to do is go out there play hard. Great things happen with this team when we play really hard. It is important that we understand that and prepare the team to go hard for the duration of the match."