Story by Kelsey Randolph, Sports Editor
Coming off of a weekend win at the Catamount Classic Crown, the Racer volleyball team prepares to travel more than 2,500 miles and face two opponents in Seattle, Washington.
Entering the weekend against Fresno State, the Racers struggled with an early 11-4 slip in the lead. In the first set, they trailed 24-22 and it looked as if Fresno State would take the match point, but with four consecutive points, the Racers brought it back 26-24.
Respectively the sets ended when Murray State took the second set 25 and finished the sweep with a 25-21 victory in the third set.
Entering its second day, Head Coach David Schwepker said the team was adjusting to the court lighting, which is very different from Racer Arena.
Black ceilings, low lighting and a wide lay-out distracted the players in the first game, but Kristen Besselsen, junior right side, said once the team could gather its bearings and understood where everyone was in relation to each other, the Racers picked up their game for the second day of the tournament.
The Racers matched with the Western Carolina Catamount’s, sweeping them 25-15, 25-18 and 25-15.
Finishing the day with a positive outlook for the next week, the Racers finished against Georgia State with a 25-6 win in the first set, 25-21 in the second and rounding the tournament 25-20 sweeping the weekend 3-0. Besselsen was named All-Tournament MVP with 13 kills against both Western Carolina and Fresno also adding eight kills against Georgia State.
“We were down in one set one time and they came back and pulled it off,” Schwepker said. “It was a tough win. It was the first set of the first match of the season. They maintained and got the win. Those kinds of wins help people to become stronger and pull through. They don’t give up when it gets to be like that.”
In addition to Besselsen’s team high three-aces, Taylor Olden, a senior outside hitter added 11 kills against the Catamount’s, Scottie Ingram, a junior outside hitter, finished with 10 kills and 10 digs along with her first double-double of the season, while Sam Bedard, a senior setter, recorded 105 assists which averaged to 11.67 assists per set.
Besselsen and Bedard were named Adidas OVC Offensive Player and Setter of the Week for their performance in the Catamount Classic.
It was the beginning to what is shaping up to be an even better season, said Besselsen.
The trip to Seattle is the only flight trip they will have this season. Schwepker said he likes to travel by plane at least once in the players’ four years to experience something as different as Washington.
Besselsen said while the team is nervous to travel and, play a team like Washington, who played to the third round of the 2014 NCAA tournament and lost against Nebraska 3-1, but unlike when they played Illinois State in the NCAA Tournament, she feels well prepared.
Being that nobody graduated, Schwepker said training has remained similar to the previous years, though to compete each week they have begun weekly tournaments to determine who will compete the following weekend.
“When you go through and pass a hundred balls you just go through the motions,” Schwepker said. “When you play as if you just go through the motions you won’t score very high. With this tournament style, the girls play against each other; I don’t pick who plays every week they pick and they know. It creates the competitiveness within those practices that we normally can’t duplicate. We want to duplicate what we do on the weekends. All of a sudden you get to the game and it suddenly matters and that’s what we are creating. Now practices matter just as much. They get that feeling of camaraderie.”
Playing during the week is just as important as playing on the weekends for Schwepker. There is no difference anymore with the new style of competitiveness amongst the team.
An individual may play one week but if they don’t prove themselves again the following week during practice—they won’t play during the weekend.
“If someone changes and earns a spot then that means they’re good enough to be out there,” Schwepker said. “They know they’ve made it and they know they should be there. Everybody around them knows it, too.”
Though the Racers won’t see home court until Oct. 7 against Austin Peay State, Schwepker said the team is putting its head in the game and focusing on consistently doing better.
Schwepker looks to the fans this season for support and camaraderie alike. He said the atmosphere of a full arena with painted faces and filled chair backs is what helps give the team an extra edge.
It is not only encouraging but intimidates the opposing team.
“We left off with tons of people in the gym,” Schwepker said. “I just want to get those fans back out and keep stressing they can be crazy —not rude to the other team —but be supportive. It’s a big deal. I don’t think the fans realize how much they help. It makes you feel good.”
Friday the team travels to Seattle, Washington, to face the University of Washington and competes Saturday against the University of Buffalo.