Volleyball heads to Florida to continue in conference games

Clara Harrington, Sports Editor

After an early fall season filled with tournaments, Tulane women’s volleyball (10-6, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) is preparing for a game-stacked rest of season in league play.

The team will head to Florida to compete first against Southern Florida on Friday Oct. 7 and then against Central Florida on Sunday Oct. 9.

The team has already competed in four conference games against Temple, UConn, SMU and Tulsa. Tulane most recently beat Tulsa, which has a national rating percentage index of 37 in five sets.

With a full schedule ahead, head coach Jim Barnes has high hopes for the team as it moves forward.

“Right now we’ve got 16 matches left, so we want to be 16-0,” Barnes said. “Our goal is to win this conference, and it became even more of a reality after playing the top teams in this league and beating Temple, who is picked second.”

The team’s most recent loss was to SMU in five sets. Though the Green Wave was leading the game for the first two sets, SMU was able to capitalize on points after Tulane began losing ball control. This weekend’s focus will be on maintaining consistent control to ensure wins.

“When [ball control] was steady, we were dominating teams,” Barnes said. “Even SMU is the best team in the league, and we dominated for two sets. Once our passing falls off, then [the other team is] able to get back in the match.”

After moving to the right side, junior outside hitter Sarah Ray has led in kills for Tulane in nearly every game, with a total of 22 in the team’s last match against Tulsa. Senior middle hitter Sarah Strasner has brought similar strength to the team, hitting .414 on 14 kills against Tulsa.

This year, the team brought on freshman libero Kaylie McHugh. Despite this being McHugh’s first season of collegiate volleyball, she has brought an enormous skill set to the team through the reliability of her passing abilities on the court. 

“[McHugh is] the No. 1 passer in the league by a good margin,” Barnes said. “As a freshman, she stepped right in and hasn’t had a bad day. She’s probably going to break all the records in that position after her career’s over here.”

The level of competition for volleyball in the AAC is high, with 12 highly-ranked and well-matched teams. With such a high and balanced level of skill throughout the league, knowing the outcome of a game ahead of time is unusual.

“Every team in the conference is so even,” Barnes said. “That’s why there’s so many five-set matches. You can win every match, and you can lose every match. There’s no knowing ahead of time what’s going to happen.”

Barnes believes that though the team will see tough competition in its upcoming games, its overall balance and unified strength will be the key to a successful season moving forward.

“Everybody we play is good in one area or another, but they’re not balanced,” Barnes said. “We’re the only team in the league that has balance across the board. We’re good on the left, middle and right. When we get everyone just a little more consistent, that’s going to be the key to winning the conference championship.”

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