Entering a key weekend with home matches against Valparaiso and Loyola, the Bradley volleyball team looks to continue its stride.
Bradley’s overall record has gone from 4-7 to 8-9 in its first six conference matches, and can vault past the .500 mark with a successful homestand. The team’s willingness to dig has been a key component of the team’s conference success, with the Braves’ 19.94 digs per set leading all NCAA teams.
“I think it’s something that we’re just continuing to put into our players’ minds and mentality,” head coach Carol Price-Torok said of the team’s willingness to put their body on the line defensively. “[The backcourt] doesn’t get to score a lot of points for us, but they have the biggest hand in us being able to score points.”
Leading the charge on an individual scale has been junior libero Emma Raleigh, who tallied a Missouri Valley Conference record 48 digs in Bradley’s win against Drake on Oct. 12.
“As a libero, I kind of just keep track of the backcourt and help keep things organized,” Raleigh said. “Make sure people know who’s taking what balls. Everybody on our team is really good at digging and we’re really good at keeping the ball alive.”
Raleigh’s 48 digs broke Yavianliz Rosado’s previous school record of 42 digs set last season, and broke the MVC record of 46 that had stood for over 10 years.
With one-third of the conference schedule in the books, Price-Torok says she’s happy with how Valley play has gone thus far.
“We’ve been starting to play the volleyball that I knew that we could play,” Price-Torok said. “We have a lot of options, multiple attackers … you saw that against Drake with four people in double-digit kills, which was really big for us. It speaks to our setters distributing the ball, and it speaks to the consistency of our attackers.”
The Braves lost in four sets at Northern Iowa on Oct. 11 before bouncing back to vanquish Drake in four sets the next night. Sophomore Rachel Pranger’s 19 kills led the way for Bradley in the victory, with sophomore Hannah Thompson, sophomore Kat Poore and junior Sara Maddox notching 16, 16 and 13 kills, respectively.
The importance of the Braves’ upcoming homestand isn’t to be understated. Tonight’s match against Valparaiso, a team that faced early season injuries, will feature a breast cancer awareness initiative, and tomorrow’s match against first place Loyola-Chicago will feature big implications for the MVC standings.
“We’re really excited to play Valpo and Loyola,” Raleigh said. “We haven’t played them yet this year, but they’re both pretty good defensive teams as well. It’ll be a battle, but we’re excited.”
Price-Torok noted that Friday’s match will take on some extra meaning given how personal the cause is to the team.
“Breast cancer awareness on Friday, celebrating [freshman] Karagan Coggin’s mom who is a breast cancer survivor,” Price-Torok said. “[I am] excited to be able to celebrate her and her life, and the things that she’s doing. I think it’ll be a hot weekend, so hopefully everyone can come out and support.”
Bradley hosts Valparaiso tonight at Renaissance Coliseum at 6 p.m., with tomorrow’s match against Loyola-Chicago set to begin at 5 p.m.