A 2400 mile round trip is what’s ahead this week for new head coach Alisa Blair and the Wildcats.
The Wildcats (4-13, 1-4) head to California Baptist (7-9, 2-3) on the road on Thursday and Grand Canyon (9-7, 3-2) at home on Saturday. Blair’s team was swept in back-to-back matchups last weekend against Southern Utah and Utah Tech.
Western Athletic Conference matchups are in full swing with ACU at 12th out of 13 with a month remaining before the conference tournament. ACU lost 3-0 to Southern Utah and Utah Tech on the road last week, and Blair said her team is hopeful of getting back on track.
“A lot of it is just having that goldfish mentality,” Blair said. “Having that short memory span and learning how to respond. We talked about this morning in our practice, it’s like you go on your first test with your professors and you don’t know how they test. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the test. You do really bad but after your first test, you always respond really well. You don’t stay with the same test. You always respond and you move on and you grow in that kind of stuff. So having that same kind of mentality, move on, learn, develop and continue to grow from each and every one of them.”
CBU is coming off an up and down weekend with a 3-1 win at the University of Texas-Arlington on Thursday and a 3-0 loss to Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Outside hitter Christine Graf, senior from Minneapolis, is currently fifth in the WAC in kills per set with 3.32. Middle blocker Chandler Gorman, redshirt senior from Houston, is second with 1.05 blocks per set in the WAC. Libero Paige Johnstone, senior from Murrieta, California, has aced her opponents .53 times per set to secure the second place spot in the WAC. As a team, the Lancers rank in the top five in the WAC in assists and kills good enough for eighth in the conference standings.
“Having our first trip in Utah and understanding the feeling of being a little bit tired from travel will help us understand,” Blair said. “Especially when we go to California and come back home. We have more recovery time between games, but at the same time we still have to get off the bus and have to respond in a good way.”
GCU played SFA and UTA as well with a 3-1 loss to SFA on Thursday but a 3-1 win over UTA on Saturday. Outside hitter Megan Taflinger, graduate from Leona Valley, California, comes in at third in the WAC with 3.52 kills per set and second in points with 4.08 per set. Setter Klaire Mitchell, senior from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, ranks second in assists per set with 9.23 in the WAC. The Antelopes currently sit at fifth in the WAC standings and face ACU directly after the Wildcats’ homecoming football game.
“I thought we did a good job with planning this one because we have a football game, which is great, but that helped push our game further back,” Blair said. “Travel always stinks, but at the same time, we get to sleep in our own bed. Any time you get to sleep in your own bed and actually have that before a game is phenomenal because your body just resets. It’s not easy, but that’s just the way this conference is.”
Right side hitters Londyn Gray, senior from Weatherford, and Jada Birkel, senior from Austin, shined last weekend in Utah. Gray racked up seven kills for a .278 against Southern Utah as her team hit .089 on the night. Birkel knocked down 11 kills for a .364 hitting night as her team hit .222 against Utah Tech.
“Our right sides are really dominating right now,” Blair said. “I thought they did a really good job in both games of making sure that they were available and they were. I mean, first game London did her job. In the second game, Jada did hers and she hit over .500. Whenever you have right sides that hit above 500, you just get pretty excited.”
ACU’s week begins against California Baptist at 9 p.m. on Thursday at the Van Dyne Gym in Riverside, California and against Grand Canyon at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Moody Coliseum.