Haiden Widener, Campus Carrier Sports Editor
|Andrea Hill | CAMPUS CARRIER|
Led by three of the top players in the SAA, volleyball advanced to 11-4 this weekend after defeating Sewanee, Virginia Wesleyan and Centre. The team lost one out of 10 sets played throughout the weekend.
“This weekend was one of the best weekends we’ve had so far in terms of how we’ve played,” sophomore Hannah Billiard said.
The Vikings are looking to advance to first in SAA conference play. Hendrix is currently leading the conference at 5-0. The Vikings are tied with Birmingham Southern for second with a 4-1 conference record.
“At this point in the season, it’s just a confidence thing,” said Head Coach Caitlyn Moriarty. “We know physically we should be sitting at the top of the conference. I think it’s just giving every team we play our very best.”
This season has been very successful so far, according to Moriarty. Of the four losses this season, two games went into five sets: one was against the 8th-ranked team in the nation and one against conference leader Hendrix.
“The exciting thing about two of those losses is that we get to play (Emory and Hendrix) again,” she said.
With Moriarty as the new head coach this season, the team has had to make some adjustments, but their play has not been affected according to players.
Sophomore Christina Goforth said that while Moriarty has a slightly different demeanor than former head coach, Mikka Robinson, she has been a good change for the team.
“She’s really good about instilling confidence in us,” Billiard said.
Not only has the new coaching staff stepped up this season, but players have as well. The Vikings have three of the top players in the SAA conference on their roster. Senior Jessica Gum leads the conference in hitting percentage kills, with 162. She also sits in second place for blocks per set.
“Jessica is at the top of everybody’s scouting report,” Moriarty said.
Senior Katie Truluck leads in digs per set and overall digs. She has 286 already this season. Junior Hannah-Kate Thompson is also on top, leading with 10 assists per set.
With Gum and Truluck as the only seniors on the team this season, Moriarty says that they have really stepped into their leadership roles while upholding the teams core values: serve others before self, be students of the game, outwork and out compete the opponent, and uphold the values on and off the court.
“On the court they’ve helped us stay unified,” Goforth said. “When we get frantic they bring us back to our focus for the game.”
Other teammates agree.
“Both of them have just been so positive and encouraging to all of us,” said Billiard.
With 30 games scheduled this year, energy is a valuable component in how the team plays. Moriarty said that the depth of the team is what really allows them to keep that energy up. The team does not have set-in-stone starters this season, as they have multiple players in every position.
“If someone is struggling or fatigued, there is a slew of people that can step in and fill their role,” Moriarty said.
Their depth will be useful this weekend as the team travels to take on Millsaps and Birmingham Southern, two conference games. According to Moriarty, Millsaps has incredible floor defense, while Birmingham Southern has a bulk of offensive weapons.
Billiard said that in order to win this weekend the team has been working on being relentless in their game by not willfully letting any rally end.
Only halfway through the season, the Vikings are looking forward to continue competing at high levels. With expectations higher than ever, their number one goal – behind winning a conference championship – is playing for a national title.
Last season the current conference leader, Hendrix, won the conference and made it to the final four of the national tournament. If the Vikings can defeat them this season, there seems to be nothing standing in their way.
“We have yet to play our best volleyball,” said Moriarty. “I don’t think we’re even close to peaking yet.”
The Vikings next home game is Oct. 5 against conference competitor, Oglethorpe.