The last time the Idaho volleyball team played in a Big Sky Conference match was almost 20 years ago.
On Thursday, the Vandals (4-8) will take on the Northern Colorado Bears in Greeley, Colorado. It’s Idaho’s first match as a member of the Big Sky since it joined the Big West following the 1995-1996 athletic season.
Over the weekend, Idaho dropped two matches at the Cougar Challenge Tournament in Pullman. The team lost to Washington State Thursday and No. 23. Loyola Marymount on Friday afternoon.
“For us, it was not our best performance of the season so far,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “I think we allowed 10 errors per game. That’s probably the most we’ve given up in awhile.”Over the weekend, Idaho dropped two matches at the Cougar Challenge Tournament in Pullman. The team lost to Washington State Thursday and No. 23. Loyola Marymount on Friday afternoon.
The Vandals’ Ali Forde made the All-Tournament team, finishing with 18 kills in two matches.
LMU outside hitter Caitlin DeWitt led the Lions with 15 kills on the match. The Lions (12-0) won the tournament after defeating WSU Friday 3-1.
Buchanan said Idaho will return to practice Monday with an emphasis on staying in plays longer.
“We’re going to do some drills where they have to play over an extended period of time,” Buchanan said. “It’ll challenge us more to have the ball cross four or five times and stay in these long rallies.”
On the verge of starting conference play, Buchanan acknowledged that every team has a fresh start to the season.
“We’re getting ready to play two good teams,” Buchanan said. “Every one is going in with a 0-0 conference record, and now it’s time to fix some more things and we’ll have an opportunity to play another good team.”
Idaho is no stranger to playing good teams this season. It began the season playing Oklahoma, followed by No. 10 Florida the next day. After tough weekend matches against WSU and No. 23. LMU, the Vandals’ schedule should ease up.
Buchanan said playing elite competition is good for her team and playing top-ranked teams will help Idaho in conference play.
“I think it should inspire us a little bit to be like those teams,” Buchanan said. “Looking at a team like LMU, it should inspire us to see they’re not a huge team — they just take care of things and don’t get too worked up emotionally.”
It’s a challenge for Idaho to predict the level of competition in the Big Sky, as the Vandals are new to the conference.
“I do think there are a handful of teams that are going to be good,” Buchanan said. “For us, it’s one match at a time. Right now, our focus is North Dakota and Northern Colorado and then we’ll move on the next set.”