Currently sitting at 4-5, the women’s volleyball team is back this year with a different look. After losing seven players to graduation last year, the Duhawks have had to make a few changes, the biggest of which was their offensive system.
“We’re a very different team than we’ve been in the last four years,” said Head Coach Jenna Ness. “We’ve been pretty similar (in the past) as far as our personnel. We were always known by other schools as having really strong defense and a very specific middle attack as our go-to. This year, we’re still going to be very strong defensively, but with a different attacking line.”
While the women do roster eight attackers, the senior leadership stems from veteran liberos Haley Bergan and Morgan Potts, Bergan having moved into the number one spot for most career digs in school history.
“All three of our liberos and our outside hitter are doing a really nice job for us. But every player is stepping up differently every single day, and I think the talent in the gym continues to rise because everyone is pushing each other to rise in such different ways,” said Ness.
Despite looking old on paper, one first-year and four transfers account for a fair amount of freshness. Coupled with returning starters stationed at different positions, this lineup makes for a new but strategized battle plan.
“We’re running a completely different system. Last year we ran a 6-2. This year we’re running a 5-1. It really does seem like a completely different team in general: the personnel, the energy, the way they play, the offense and the defense are all very new,” said Ness.
The Duhawks opened their season 2-2 at the Kathryne Pals Legacy invitation in St. Paul, MN, during the first weekend of September.
They faced No. 2-ranked Northwestern, and despite a 3-0 loss, were able to experience playing together competitively for the first time.
With the first loss under their belt, the offensive line shined against St. Scholastica as they wedged ahead to take the match 3-1. To finish the weekend they faced Concordia-Moorhead, winning 3-0, and then UW-Stevens Point, losing 3-0.
“Our girls went out there for the first time and played really hard and well together. They figured out some things you can’t mimic in a practice scenario,” said Ness. “It’s hard to mimic those live game/match settings, especially in preseason.”
The Duhawks then traveled to Wisconsin on Sept. 6 to play the UW-Platteville Pioneers, ultimately losing a hard-fought battle, 3-2. Highlights included nine kills from sophomore outside hitter Abby Allgeyer as well as 12 digs from junior Jenna Mazur.
“We came in strong during the first set and really stuck to the game plan,” said Ness. “Platteville definitely adjusted to some things and really challenged our block, which in return is difficult for our back- row players to compete.”
This past weekend brought the Loras Invitational, where the women defeated Hamline and Carroll, 3-0 and 3-2, respectively, before falling to St. Olaf, 3-1, and Cornell, 3-0.
“We can’t let any one loss define who we are, but we have to learn a lot from that loss. If we learn from that, then the next day can define who you want to be,” said Ness. “We play for tomorrow.”