Volleyball gearing up for conference play

Over the past two weekends the women’s volleyball team has been readying themselves for conference play with a stiff tournament schedule. 

On Sept. 13, the team traveled to Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, to compete in the Drury Fall Invitational. The Bulldogs began the weekend against Colorado Mesa University of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, who entered the weekend 3-1 overall. After three close sets, in which the Bulldog’s largest margin of defeat was just four points, Truman was unable to prolong the match and lost 0-3. In the second match of the first day, the team focused their aim on the Griffons of Missouri Western State University. The volleyball team rallied after losing the first match and routed the Griffons in straight sets 3-0. This extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak over the Griffons to four, with their last loss to the in-state rivals coming in 2015. 

After splitting sweeps on the first day of tournament play, the Bulldogs were faced with two ranked opponents on Saturday: seventh-ranked Northern State University and 18th-ranked Northwest Missouri State University. In the first of the two Saturday matchups the ’Dogs challenged the No. 7 Wolves of Northern State University. Truman struggled to score against the Wolves’ defense, which held Truman to just 38 kills. The ’Dogs dropped all three sets in the first contest of the day and moved on to the rival Bearcats of Northwest Missouri State University. This matchup appeared to be within the Bulldog’s grasp after a first-set victory by a score of 25-19. However, the two teams continued to swap victories until a decisive fifth set needed to be played. With five errors in the final set, the Bulldogs were unable to complete the upset and fell to 1-3 over the weekend. 

Despite finishing the tournament with a losing record, the Bulldogs were able to land Jocelynn Livingston on the All-Tournament Team. With 35 kills, nine digs and one solo block, Livingston’s impressive weekend helped the Bulldogs walk away from the tournament with some hardware. 

The following weekend the team was on the road again, this time in Louisville, Kentucky, to compete in the Bellarmine tournament. On Friday, the first day of the tournament, the team opened tournament play with a 3-1 victory over Georgia College. Even though they emerged victorious, this game was one of the closest of the weekend for the Bulldogs, as each set was decided by three points or less. In their second contest of the day, the Bulldogs took the court against the Cedarville University Yellow Jackets. After trading lop-sided wins, the ’Dogs dropped consecutive games to go down 3-1. This match proved to be the low point of an otherwise successful weekend. 

Truman returned to the court Saturday to face off against the University of Charleston. With the help of an efficient attack, the Bulldogs made quick work of the Golden Eagles with three overwhelming victories (25-17, 25-10, 25-16). In this match, the Bulldogs were led by outside hitter Morgan Smith, who ended the match with a team high of 19 kills and a career-best 12 digs. Following this win, the Bulldogs finished the weekend against the Trojans of Trevecca Nazarene University. In the first set, the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 10-1 lead behind 3 kills by Smith. The Trojans, however, would answer and eventually tie the set at 24 before Smith hammered home consecutive kills to give the Bulldogs the opening set victory. After the first set the Bulldogs had no trouble finishing the sweep of the Trojans to finish the weekend 3-1, one of two teams to do so. Libero Lauren Wacker believes that the success in the second tournament was due to improvements in the front row both defensively and offensively. 

“Our front row really started putting balls away,” Wacker said. “We’ve also been able to get a lot more touches on other teams’ hits, which makes defense that much easier.”

One member of that Bulldog front row that received distinct honors was Smith. The ’Dogs were again able to land a member of their roster on the All-Tournament Team. Smith, who finished the tournament with 56 kills, 25 digs and one solo block, was Truman’s only representative on the team. 

With this season’s tournament play coming to an end, the Bulldogs are preparing to jump into their conference schedule. The team will begin their 16-game conference stretch on Friday, Sept. 27. Standing at 6-6, the volleyball team is well behind their 2018 pace that earned them the last spot in their conference tournament. This year’s team will need a strong run through the conference to finish in the top eight and qualify for the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament for the fourth year in a row.