Entering a four-match homestand that will take them into Missouri Valley Conference play, the Bradley volleyball team finds itself in search of a rhythm.
The first nine matches of the 2019 campaign have produced a mixed bag of results for the Braves, who’s current record sits at 3-6. While it hasn’t been a disastrous stretch, as Bradley has competed against highly-regarded teams from established conferences, it marks a stark contrast from the 7-2 record that the team boasted at the same point in 2018.
Sure, there have been peaks thus far: the Braves claimed the title in the CEFCU Invitational at Renaissance Coliseum on Sept. 6 and 7. But Bradley was also swept in the season-opening SMU Invitational in late August, and only claimed one match against Sacramento State while dropping two last weekend at the UIC Invitational.
“I think we’re still continuing to battle consistency,” head coach Carol Price-Torok said. “Just finding that right recipie of new players on the court in starting roles and sixth rotation roles that haven’t been there.”
One detriment to finding consistency has been the schedule, which was designed to prepare the team for conference play by featuring highly-regarded teams from other conferences. Bradley opened its season with a four-set loss to SMU, who ranked fifth in the American Conference preseason poll. Additionally, the Braves fell in five sets to preseason-Ohio Valley Conference favorite Murray State on Sept. 14.
With South Dakota and Northern Illinois at the CEFCU classic at home this weekend, the Braves see an opportunity to build some momentum.
“We have a great home crowd,” Price-Torok said. “We’re used to the ebbs and flows of our gym serving and passing-wise. I think that’s something that’s really important to us and helps us stay consistent. When we’re serving really well, it gives us a little of that extra step … I think that really helps us.”
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Pranger also sees the benefits that playing in familiar territory provides.
“It’s a pretty big deal, especially because we have all of the people come out and watch our games,” Pranger said. “That really just gives us a lot of momentum. It’s nice to be in our gym… we’re comfortable there, we can serve and pass well there. It’s just really nice to be at home.”
Pranger, who currently ranks second on the team in kills and third in digs, says that the team is working hard to establish a stronger measure of consistency.
“Coach will put us in some drills where we’re behind and we’ve gotta get back and just finish off the game,” Pranger said. “It really helps with our consistency, and we’ve just gotta keep working on it each day.”
Bradley hosts South Dakota tonight at 7 p.m. and Northern Illinois tomorrow at 2 p.m. inside Renaissance Coliseum.