This past weekend, Bradley volleyball (3-6) put together their first winning road trip by taking two-of-three matches in Ohio at the Bobcat Invitational.
“The [weekend] still showcased some things that we needed to work on,” head coach Alicia Williams said. “I thought we blocked really well this weekend [and] our defense took it up a notch from the weekend prior.”
In the first match, the Braves were able to sweep Loyola (Md.) by scores of 25-19, 29-27 and 25-21. The Greyhounds committed 29 attack errors in the game while Bradley used a career-high four aces from senior libero Serena Sparks to clinch the victory.
“It was weird because we only had two kills [in the first set],” junior outside hitter Maike Bertens Deckart said. “They would serve, and we’d hit [back] and they’d hit it out.”
The Braves were able to sweep the Greyhounds despite Loyola totaling 46 kills compared to Bradley’s 28. The Braves were also outhit by their opponent, but used nine aces and seven blocks to seal a successful game one.
In the second game on Friday, Bradley was dealt the same fate as their prior opponent, losing all three sets to the host Ohio Bobcats by scores of 25-21, 25-21 and 25-17. It was the fourth time the Braves were swept this season, and the second time to a team outside of the Top 25. Bertens Deckart explained what caused the team to flounder.
“Offensively, [Ohio] was just really strong,” Bertens Deckart said. “Their middle was really good, and they had really good pins; it was hard to stop them.”
After the doubleheader on Friday, the team prepared for the road trip’s finale: a daytime battle against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
The Braves used a five-point run in the first set and traded points the rest of the way to jump out to a two-set lead. However, the Eagles, facing an 11-8 hole, scored nine of ten points and rode that rally to a third set 25-23 win. In the fourth set, Tennessee Tech hammered the Braves, setting up a winner-take-all fifth set.
“We were together [before the fifth set], and I was just like, ‘We’ve done this before, so let’s do this,’” Bertens Deckart said.
Looking for their second win of the invitational, Bradley took a 12-6 lead and followed it by taking the final set 15-11.
The win on Saturday was the third for the team this year. While a 3-6 record may not seem like the best start, the Braves take solace in knowing that two matches against top 25 teams and a 2-1 record in fifth sets will help them down the road. Finding who will be the main calling card for the group is what Williams is still waiting to find out.
“We’re just waiting for that person you can kind of look to when things get a little bit rough,” Williams said. “It’s kind of difficult, but I also feel that it’s normal during preseason to [still] find who does well under pressure.”
Next up for the Braves is a return to Renaissance Coliseum for the CEFCU Classic to cap the non-conference season. The Braves will face Western Michigan (5-4) on Friday and return Saturday for matches with St. Thomas (2-7) and IUPUI (4-5).