For the first time in their Western Athletic Conference schedule, the Wildcats (4-11, 1-2) head on the road to Southern Utah (2-11, 1-3) on Thursday night and Utah Tech (7-6, 1-3) on Saturday afternoon.
Last weekend, the Wildcats fell to the University of Texas Arlington Mavericks, 3-1 on Thursday and 3-2 to the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on Saturday. New head coach Alisa Blair said her team is looking forward to the trip and hopeful for wins.
“Our girls are excited because most of them have never been to Utah,” Blair said. “They’re like, ‘I can’t wait.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, guys, we’re going to have a long travel day, we’re going to fly and we’ve got to drive.’ I don’t expect to be able to sleep because it’s really pretty where we’re driving, so it’s going to be good.”
On the year, the Thunderbirds are 2-11 and lost 3-0 to the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Saturday and 3-1 to New Mexico State on Thursday. Leading the Thunderbirds in kills is outside hitter Makenzie Templeton, junior from Cedar Hills, Utah with 117 on 410 attacks. Setter Macy Short, junior from Middleton, Idaho comes in at sixth in the WAC in assists per set with 6.78. As a team, Southern Utah is No. 10 or lower out of 13 WAC schools in every statistical category.
“We have to make sure that we iron out all the kinks that we had over the weekend,” Blair said. “Once we start traveling, it’s just getting our legs back underneath us. We get a practice once we get to Utah, but at the same time, travel gets everybody. So it’s actually getting off the bus and making sure that we are being present where our feet are and doing a really good job with doing that.”
The Trailblazers roll into the weekend at 7-6 and face Tarleton on Thursday before hosting ACU on Sat. To start their WAC season on Sept. 24, Utah Tech lost to Southern Utah 3-1 and last weekend they lost to UTRGV 3-2 but beat New Mexico State 3-1. As a team in the WAC standings, Utah Tech is second in digs per set and third in opponent hitting percentage. Libero Mykenna Nelson, senior from Phoenix, leads the way in digs with 5.06 per set, good enough for second in the WAC.
“You have to bring it every single night,” Blair said. “That’s something we talk about with the girls, not just every single night, it’s every single day, especially in practice. If we take mental breaks in practice, we’re going to end up taking those mental breaks in games.”
Individually for ACU in the WAC, middle blocker Braden Bossier, junior from Fairfield, comes in at eight in hitting percentage at .309. Outside hitter Ashli Edmiston, freshman from Wilsonville, Ore., and setter Madeline Guffy, sophomore from Krum, stand at seventh and ninth in service aces per set. Finally libero Logan Browning, senior from Wichita Falls, ranks sixth in digs per set.
Out of 13 in the WAC, ACU is third in digs, seventh in aces, 13th in blocks, seventh in assists, eighth in kills, 11th in hitting percentage and 11th in opponent hitting percentage. Blair said the skills are there but she’s still working on establishing a growth mindset for her program.
“Having that mental control of finishing and understanding like we can’t take these little mental lapses because those result in three to four points,” Blair said. “Understanding we got to focus for five sets, essentially like two and a half hours. We got to focus on the same thing over and over and over again. As the play develops and as the games develop, we have to be able to make those changes right off the bat.”
ACU’s week begins at Southern Utah at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah and at Utah Tech at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Burns Arena in St. George, Utah.