Volleyball team looks for strong conference tourney run

Story by Chad Mullen, Writer

After starting the season 3-14, the Baker University volleyball team has a chance to finish the regular season with a winning record in conference play. Even as expectations have tempered from before the season started, the Wildcats still hope to make a deep run in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament.

“(Coach Matt) Windle came into it a little more realistically,” junior Brittney Diehm said. “He said, ‘I’m a new coach. We have a lot of new faces.’ I don’t think we knew what to expect, but he was ready to face some losses in his first year. Still, we have the chance to play for about another month.”

The ‘Cats split two matches over the weekend, defeating Mount Mercy University in five sets on Friday before losing in five sets to Clarke University on Saturday. At 6-6, the Wildcats will look to finish the conference portion of their schedule above .500 for the second consecutive season. This came after a grueling non-conference schedule, with seven matches against ranked opponents. This gave the Wildcats a competitive edge come conference time, according to Diehm.

“I think we should be happy with our strength of schedule, because even though it added to our losses, it made us ready for our conference opponents,” she said.

The final match of the regular season will be a senior night match on Tuesday against Missouri Valley College. The Vikings are currently fifth in the Heart standings at 8-4.

“This year, we only have two seniors, but I think that makes it even more special because with so few, it makes all of us have a closer bond with them,” Diehm said. “When we have no motivation left on a certain day, we just think of the seniors and that gives us an extra push.”

The two seniors are Elizabeth Arnold and Haleigh Offield.

Even with late-season injury struggles, the Wildcats have won eight of their past 12 matches, improving to 11-18. The surge also came from working out kinks the team found in its’ early matches.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries, once again, so we’ve had to work around those, but in practice we have been working a lot on serve-receive, because that has been kind of a weakness for us,” Diehm said.

“We also have been working on a lot of drills specific to our positions, so about 70 percent of the practice I would say is working on our individual games.”

With a position in the conference tournament locked in, Diehm hopes that the Wildcats will be able to make a deep run.

“I’m not sure how (seeding) will turn out, but we will do our best to get really far along and make it to the end of November.”