With the toughest non-conference season since entering Div. I behind them, the volleyball team turns their focus to the slate of 16 Southland Conference matches ahead of them. The Wildcats begin Southland Conference play against the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas.
UCA (4-9), started conference play back on Sept. 17 with a loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Sugar Bears are currently riding a two-game winning streak after wins over Louisiana Tech and Alabama State.
The Wildcats (0-13) are coming off back-to-back four set losses to Montana and the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a three straight set loss against Denver last weekend. This will mark the third consecutive season that ACU will start conference play against UCA.
Although the Wildcats are coming off a winless non-conference tournament season, head coach Jason Bibler will rely on the strong play of freshmen Lauren Walker, Jacey Smith and Kendall Bosse to help the team break into the win column during conference play.
“We will keep setting them in big moments, in tight score situations and when the game is on the line,” Bibler said. “We will continuously expect great things from our freshmen and they will deliver for the team.”
ACU is 0-2 all-time against the Sugar Bears, falling in five sets last year (22-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12) and straight sets in 2013 (15-25, 19-25, 18-25). Senior libero Madison Hoover said the mindset isn’t changing for the team.
“It’s pretty hard to have a lot of confidence after having such a tough preseason, but we know it will not help us at all to let the past hold us down,” Hoover said. “Our team’s hashtag is #PressOn and that’s our goal this conference season. No matter what is thrown our way we give it our all and know we did all that we could.”
The Wildcats have proved several times during non-conference play they can play up to anybody’s level of intensity, as they took North Texas to five sets (18-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 9-15) and won sets against Texas A&M and Wichita State.
“Our biggest struggle has been our consistency,” Bibler said. “We play really well at times and then other times we don’t do enough. We have to find a higher level and play at that point throughout the match.”
The game is set to start at 7 p.m. at the Prince Center in Conway, Arkansas. The team will then travel back home for their conference home opener in Moody Coliseum against Northwestern State University. The match will be the first game the Wildcats have played at home so far this year.
“The preseason was really tough for us, but we have a good attitude going into conference,” Hoover said. “We plan on putting the losses behind us and focusing on the future.”