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Volleyball Flyby: Next Two Weekends Are Big
Volleyball Flyby: Next Two Weekends Are Big
Published by BeckysTXA
Volleyball Flyby: Next Two Weekends Are Big

With one pre-conference tournament left this weekend - on the first road trip of the season at Northern Iowa - the 2023 squad finds itself sitting at 8-2 and having just cracked the AVCA rankings at #25. The Flyers have looked good and played very well, but it’s the next couple weeks that will tell us if they have taken back control of the A10 and if this team is ready to make a run through the conference in preparation for writing their own history in the NCAAs.

So after a week off to accommodate preparations for #2 Louisville, we caught up with Head Coach Tim Horsmon again to get his take on the current state of affairs of the volleyball team, starting with the challenges of their first road trip.

“Obviously we enjoy playing in front of our home crowd and keeping to the players’ academic schedules and rigors is much easier at home,” Horsmon said. “But, we enjoy traveling as a group and are excited to figure out how to play in a different gym with great competition on the road.”

The Flyers will play probably their weakest opponent this season in Northern Illinois on Friday at noon and then face a tough team and host Northern Iowa on Friday evening at 8 pm. This is UNI’s first weekend playing at home and they will be gunning for the #25 Flyers.

“They (UNI) are really good in all facets of the game,” Horsmon revealed. “A lot of fire power offensively and they are well-coached.”

The Flyers have faced a lot of very-well coached teams this year and held their own. UNI’s coach is Bobbie Petersen. She is in her 24th year as UNI’s head coach and just had her contract extended through 2028. She played her collegiate career at UNI and is arguably the best player to ever wear a Panther uniform. She is an icon in Cedar Falls and she’s taken them to two Sweet 16s. Her team will be very well prepared. But Hormon likes his staff and program too.

“I’d like to think that Dayton is in that same realm (of the Sweet 16 teams we’ve played this year -- Louisville, Marquette, Ohio, WKY and UNI),“ he stated. “I feel as though we have gained the confidence of our administration in our abilities to coach at a high level which always makes this job a lot easier. I believe we have great leadership from our Athletic Director and President and they have always shown confidence in our coaching staff which I think every Head Coach desires. I also think we have assembled a great staff that can compete at a really high level.”

That belief to compete at a high level year in and year out with the administration’s support has presented a great opportunity for this program with Marquette and WKY. Along with Dayton, the three teams will play each other again the next two years.

“We are doing a 3-year revolving schedule,” Horsmon explained. “Next year we are at Western Kentucky with Marquette. The following year we are at Marquette with Western Kentucky in addition to whatever 4th team they add to the tournament.”

Not only is this arrangement a great opportunity to compete against two high-quality , well-coached programs but it also means the Dayton coaching staff believes the teams in 2024 and 2025 will be very good and will again compete and expect to win these matches. That’s exciting. Alayna Yates was interviewed by her hometown newspaper in Cedar Falls this past week. She is planning to stay at Dayton and use her COVID year. She is having her best year ever this season. Lexie Almodovar is currently leading the Nation in points scored and kills. I don’t remember a Flyer player every leading the Nation in an individual stat. You have to assume Lexie is also planning to use her COVID year. Those two will be the foundation of the team in 2024. But, there are others who will still be around the next two years and this year, they are showing this program is more than a couple players strong.

“Just the beginning of the season has affirmed that we have really good players and that when we play the right way, we can compete at a very high level,” Horsmon continued. “Consistency will still be the key for us throughout this season.

“(But I like this lineup) and just them playing together and continuing to get better as they figure out the chemistry. We still have some mental lapses and the details have to be better individually, but as confidence grows, you can see our play take a big jump.”

So the team is moving forward, working hard to get better as a unit and figuring out their chemistry. They have cracked the rankings. They have gone toe-to-toe against #2 Louisville in a 5-set loss. But in the end this program has always been about championships and making the NCAAs. So does Horsmon think the pre-conference schedule been good enough to secure an at-large bid if it’s needed in the end?

“Too early to know, but we obviously scheduled a lot of Top-50 and Top-75 programs coming into this year,” he said. “We’re hoping the WKU win is a big one for us; we think Drake could have a successful season. Ohio is a really solid team heading into this season. Wright State and Ball State were both in the Top-50 last year. UIC was also in the low 60s RPI last season with most of their team returning. Obviously the Marquette and Louisville matches could’ve been game changers for us for an at-large bid (if we had won). But I think we’re at a solid place and the next two weekends could be large for us.”

The team will travel the next two weeks for these important matches. They will need to take care of the UNI tournament matches this weekend. They then travel to Chicago for two matches against defending A10 Champs Loyola next weekend. We will still have the rest of the A10 schedule ahead of us, but, yeah, the next two weekends are big.
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By BeckysTXA on 09-15-2023, 12:34 PM
I’m in Cedar Falls for this tournament. I see UNI has 3 Sweet 16 banners - one for 1999, 2001 and 2002. Petersen was not their head coach in 1999, so she’s taken them to 2 Sweet 16s. One other note about this weekend. Thus us the first time this year we play in a basketball arena. It’s different. The sight perception is different with the tall ceilings. Their gym is very nice. The concourse with concessions is around the top and you walk down to the playing surface. We use to have fits playing Xavier because of their arena. We will see how this team adjusts to the bigger environment. The setter-hitter connections are still a work in progress. We are getting better at it, but this might affect those.
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By BeckysTXA on 09-16-2023, 01:49 PM
Marquette plays #7 Oregon on Sunday at home. We need them to upset Oregon. That will go a long way to putting their rpi back on track and helping our rpi.
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By BeckysTXA on 09-16-2023, 01:58 PM
Drake beat Ohio in 5 and swept UCSB yesterday. Was UCSB’s only 2nd loss of the year. They play #23 Iowa State today. Would love to see that upset too. Ohio is going to be ok because they will dominate their conference. Drake will do well in conference but it will be tougher. Drake needs this win. Hope they get it.
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