The 2015 edition of the John Carroll University volleyball squad came into the fall season with big expectations. The team was voted as preseason favorites to win the Ohio Athletic Conference in the conference coaches poll, something they have not done in 21 years. The team is coming off of their first over 20 win season, in which first year head coach Laura Rodeffer was named coach of the year. However, with great expectations comes more difficult tests along the road to the conference championship and post-season play. The Blue Streaks possess a menacing schedule with many opponents heralding from the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top 25 rankings. The rough schedule will be a test for the team to evaluate just how good they can be.
“Knowing we were picked to win the conference in the preseason poll is one major aspect that stands out to me,” said junior Leah Switalski. “Our team needs offensive threats and being a junior I want to take on that leadership role and help prove that this team is capable of big things.”
Most recently, the volleyball team took their talents to Stevens Point, Wis. to compete in the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Invitational. There, they were dealt another tough hand with the #6 team and one just outside the top 25 among their opponents.
The Blue Streaks won one of four matches, but the experience was definitely beneficial.
Having lost their first bought to Ripon College, JCU took on tournament host and #6 team UWSP. The Pointers had not dropped a set before they met up with the women from University Heights, but that streak did not last. JCU stole the first set but did not stop there. After the next two sets went to the Pointers, JCU won the fourth set to force the fifth and final do or die game. The two teams exchanged runs but UWSP prevailed with a score of 15-12.
JCU carried their high level of play into the next match in which they swept Hamline, and boasted a .250 hitting percentage in the contest. The final match of the weekend was a three set loss to 9-1 Bethel, who is on the brink of entering the top 25.
“The team definitely gained experience and knowledge of the game,” said Switalski about the weekend in Wisconsin. “Proving that we can compete with and defeat ranked opponents shows that we can play with the best. Although we didn’t have the outcomes we wanted for every match the past two weekends, we are still growing as a team and put in a lot of handwork at practices that will start to pay off.”
JCU is now 3-6 through 9 matches this season. The teams they have faced have been a combined 50-26, with three being undefeated. It has been a bumpy first few weeks but the adversity will certainly payoff in the long-run, as the team will have to play and beat top ranked opponents to get to where they believe they can be at the end of the season.
JCU heads to Delaware, Ohio for the Ohio Wesleyan Bishop Invitational on Sept. 18.
At the Ohio Wesleyan Bishop Invitational, the Blue Streaks will take the court twice on Friday, Sept. 18 and twice on Saturday, Sept. 19.
On Friday, Sept. 18, JCU will match up against Alma College and Defiance College. On Saturday, Sept. 19, JCU will match up against Hanover College and Ohio Wesleyan University.
Heading into the Ohio Wesleyan Bishop Invitational, the Blue Streaks sit at 3-6 on the season. Following the squad’s trip to Ohio Wesleyan, JCU takes part in one more invitational before heading into OAC play.