|Volume XXIX Issue 8||October 9, 2003|
Long matches favor Phoenix volleyball squad
Nick Palatiello - Sports Editor
Going into extra innings, overtime or extended play is not an ideal way to compete in sports. Having to play longer becomes draining both physically and mentally, but for Elonís volleyball team this is not the case. The Phoenix are undefeated when playing matches that last five games. In matches that last four games the team is 2-5, but they are struggling with a 1-6 record in three game matches.
"We play well in clutch situations," said Mary Tendler.
Playing in the clutch is what coaches want to see out of their players and this weekend the Phoenix need to pull through. Elon takes on The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and East Tennessee State University Friday and Saturday in two big Southern Conference matches. The Phoenix currently hold a 2-3 conference record and sit tied for fourth place in the North region of the conference. This is important because the top eight teams of the 12 team conference advance to the conference tournament.
After defeating Western Carolina University in five games (21-30, 30-28, 30-24, 18-30, 16-14) Oct. 3, and dropping a four-game match to Appalachian State University (30-28, 30-18, 30-28, 30-28) Oct. 4, the Phoenix need to take the next two matches to stay competitive going into the final stretch of conference play.
Hayes has not been the only one to help on the offensive side of the ball.
"I get help from my teammates who set up my shots," said Hayes.
That help has been coming from sophomore Kate Hart who has dominated in sets for the Phoenix. In the match against Western Carolina, Hart had 57 sets. She again had a number of assists against the Mountaineers with 46 sets. Hart has now totaled 754 assists this season alone to put her ninth in the single season assist chart. Last year she had 802 assists and will be sure to shatter that record by the end of the season. Hart also put her name in the record books with her career assists total. As of now she has 1,556 career assists, placing her in fifth all time for the Phoenix. The record is 3,929 and was set by Priscilla Awkard.
The Phoenix defense has been receiving support from junior Mary Kate Spears, who had 19 digs in the victory over Western Carolina and East Tennessee State.
Tendler said that there are two things that the team needs to start doing to win, especially the three-game matches. She said that the team needs to focus on their side of the court because they have a tendency to look at the other teams record and play accordingly.
"You donít know who the other team has played or what team will show up that day," said Tendler.
The other thing the Phoenix must work on is giving up silly errors.
"Having errors such as a miss hit happens, but when you hit the ball 15 feet out of bounds and donít communicate, that is not acceptable," said Tendler.
This week the team has been working on their basic skills and defensive feet positioning, Hayes said.
Hayes has become the go-to offensive player, said Tendler. In the teamís match against Western Carolina, Hayes had a career high 23 kills and a .404 hitting percentage.
"You have to step [your game] up in conference play," Hayes said of her outbreak performance.
The Phoenix will look to Hayes to put away the Mocs Friday night and the Buccaneers Saturday night. Both games will be in Alumni Gym. Spears said the team has to become more confident by getting the job done and not letting a lead slip away.
Elon has had a tendency to relax when they are in the lead and allow teams to slip back into the match. The team performs well under pressure. Unlike in football where you can create pressure, in volleyball the pressure comes from your team. If the Phoenix are looking for pressure to motivate their performance, the remainder of the schedule should be their motivational pressure.
The Phoenix only have 14 games until the end of the regular season and the competition will be fierce. Spears said that many teams have underestimated the Phoenix because they are new and come from a less competitive conference. Elon has this advantage over the competition and can make a big impact on the remainder of the schedule.
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