The host team Georgia Southern (9-2) will likely pose the most difficult challenge for volleyball (4-5) in its final weekend of non-conference play.
The team travels to Statesboro, Ga., where it’ll play at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday against Jackson State (1-11) and Georgia Southern, respectively, and will conclude the tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday against Charleston Southern (4-7).
“I think (Georgia Southern) is one of the better opponents we’ve played this season,” said head coach Erik Olson. “They’re probably the best defensive team we’ve seen all season. They have a nice record, so they’re confident.”
Olson says he’s excited to see how the team will react to the raucous environment he believes will be present.
“It looks like the most fun environment we’ve played in this season. The crowd is into it, and there are a lot of students there,” Olson said. “When I say fun, I mean hostile, but I like hostile.”
The offense has been running well for the Chippewas, as the team ranks No. 22 in the nation in assists per set as a team and senior setter Kelly Maxwell is ranked No. 13 in the country in assists per set. The concerns lie on the defensive side.
“We’re not very happy with our team defense right now,” Olson said. “We don’t rank very high in too many of the categories, so we’ve gotten to see that improve. I think we have one of the most high-powered offenses in the conference by far, but you can’t win on one side of the ball. Defense wins games.”
The Chippewas come off last weekend’s Hofstra tournament with momentum, where they went 2-1 after going 1-2 in their first two tournaments.
“Last weekend we definitely learned a lot,” said junior outside hitter Kaitlyn McIntyre. “We for sure called it our best performance of the season, so we’re definitely on the upward trend.”
Olson hopes part of the noise this weekend on the courts is coming from his own team. The coaches stressed communicating with each other throughout the match to the team during Tuesday’s practice.
“A talkative team is a confident team,” Olson said. “If you walk into a gym that has players who lack that confidence, you usually walk into a very quiet gym. You don’t hear a lot of passion, and you don’t hear the dictation of what’s going on around you.”
Sophomore middle blocker Angie White says the team can use constant communication to become more comfortable with each other on the court.
“When we as a team talk to each other, it brings us closer together,” White said. “It helps you play stronger next to the person you’re next to. When we talk and bring each other closer together, it’s easier for us to play on the same court.”
Just like last week, Olson has high expectations of the team.
“I’d like to see if we can come out of a weekend 3-0,” Olson said. “I’d like to see us win a tournament championship. I think Georgia Southern would be a phenomenal win. I think they’re ranked in the top 75 right now, and that would be a good way to head into conference.”