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Positives shown from start of volleyball conference play

Doga Topcicek stirikes a ball. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics/Evan Temchin

Bradley volleyball kicked off the conference season against the Indiana State Sycamores and the Evansville Purple Aces this past weekend, falling in both matches by a score of 3-1.

On Sept. 23, the Braves went toe-to-toe with Indiana State, a match in which they lost handily in the first set to the tune of 25-12 thanks to a four and five-point run on the Sycamores’ part.

The Braves bounced back with help from junior Doga Topcicek, who had 16 digs, and freshman Kendall Minta, who had nine kills over the entirety of the match.

“I really get along with our setter Carlee [Camlin], so I feel like she was one of the main reasons that I played really well,” Topcicek said.

Bradley won the second set 25-21 but lost the last two, both of which were more competitive than the first set as the Braves dropped them 25-13, 25-17.

After their battle against Indiana State, the Braves traveled to Evansville the next day to take on the Purple Aces, who earned an NIVC berth alongside Bradley last season.

Against Evansville, Bradley was able to keep the margin within seven points in three of the four sets, including a 27-25 third-set victory. The Purple Aces had a .318 hitting percentage compared to Bradley’s .152, but Topcicek matched a career-high with 14 kills and senior Karagan Coggin added five blocks to lead the Braves.

“I think there’s a lot of parity in our conference, so anyone can beat up on anyone this year more than [in] years past,” head coach Alicia Williams said. “So I think for us, we just need to trust the process of getting better at the things we need to work on.”

It’s a neck-and-neck race at the top of the Valley with four teams, including Evansville, tied for first with an undefeated conference record. However, with MVC play just starting, Williams isn’t too concerned about her squad’s record right now.

“I did like the way that we ended play against Evansville on Saturday, and so I think we’re going to try to gain some consistency with that lineup going into this next weekend,” Williams said. “I think for us, we just need to stay proactive in worrying about us [and] not necessarily worrying about the wins and the losses.”

Having been able to learn a lot through a tough non-conference season, Bradley was able to transition smoother into conference play.

“I think that was the toughest non-conference schedule Bradley volleyball has had, at least in the seniors’ four years,” Williams said. “They’ve never been exposed to that and so I think for them, it was good [and] it was eye-opening. I mean, Purdue’s ranked fifth right now, so they’ve even gone up since we’ve played them as they’ve gotten better.”

The opportunity to play teams ranked as the best in the country was a learning experience for players and coaches alike.

“I think that it’s good for them to get that exposure and also just understand that our record does not necessarily depict our level of play,” Williams said. “I think there’s been a lot of people in our conference that had an easier non-conference schedule, and they have really great records, and they’re coming in and they’re not doing as well these first weekends. Then there’s some that have had really tough non-conference play, and now they’re really finding some success in conference. So that’s what we’re hoping to gain from that, preparing ourselves by seeing the best and then being able to translate that into conference.”

Heading into the weekend with a positive mindset, the Braves will take on Illinois-Chicago on Friday and Valparaiso on Saturday for Homecoming weekend as the team hopes to even up their conference record.

“Like I said before, staying steady with the grind of it and the process of it I think is going to help us in the long run,” Williams said.

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