Duhawks thrive under tough competition

Schedule difficulty has helped team rise to occasion for key conference victories over Coe and Wartburg

For the entirety of the season thus far, Jenna Ness, Loras College women’s volleyball coach, has explained that the tough schedule she has compiled for her team was meant to prepare them for conference competition. The regular season is more than halfway over, and it seems as though her plan has succeeded.

volleyball 1The difficulty of the Duhawks’ non-conference matches has equipped the team with the skills it needs to overcome conference opponents. Loras has already defeated Coe and Wartburg who were picked to finish second and third respectively in the Iowa Conference pre-season polls. These were significant victories for the team considering Loras had not topped Coe since 2012 and Wartburg since 2010.

Some might be wondering how competitive Loras’ schedule really is. To determine this, look at the Strength of Schedule rankings. At the beginning of the season, teams are ranked based on the strength or toughness of the teams they are playing.

“We are in the top three for Strength of Schedule Rankings in our region. We’re playing really tough teams, but we’re fighting,” Ness said about the competition.

Their fight is evident because the 2015 Duhawks are a completely different team than in years past. There is noticeable improvement just in the last year. Last season’s record through 19 games was 8-11. Loras has flipped that record this season sitting 11-8 through the same amount of matches. While eight losses might not seem great, the Duhawks have not been getting blown out of the water in any game. In those eight defeats, the team has only lost by an average of 3.22 points per set. This proves that Loras does not give up. The team is holding its own against these ranked competitors, and it shows during conference play.

“Those tight sets and tight matches I think really prepared us for conference. That’s why we schedule tough,” said Ness.volleyball 2

Loras has a string of non-conference matches approaching before the team enters back into conference play. The Duhawks will travel to Naperville, IL this weekend to compete in the North Central Invitational. Loras will play four matches in a two-day spread with opponents including Purdue-North Central, Washington University-St. Louis, North Central and Robert Morris. The team will face Central upon returning home.
While the experience of facing these skilled competitors is what’s important, the Duhawks have the ability to improve their record with the games left this season.

Statistically speaking, Loras has performed better than its combined opponents in kills, assists, aces, serve receptions, digs and blocking. The issue is that Loras has also recorded more errors than its opponents in categories such as serving and blocking. In order to tally more victories in the back-half of the season, the Duhawks need to maximize their strengths and minimize their errors.

The Loras roster is composed of 14 talented volleyball players headed by a knowledgeable coaching staff. The team has already proved it has what it takes to come out on top with the impressive victories it has secured so far. Now it’s time to buckle down and finish strong.

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