The schedule going into the weekend for the Idaho volleyball team looked as if the team was playing for the NCAA Championships rather than the opening tournament of the season.
On Friday, Idaho lost to Oklahoma 25-15, 25-12, 26-24, before a loss to No. 10 Florida 26-24, 25-17, 25-13. The Vandals capped off the Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville, Florida, with a competitive win against a strong Georgia Southern team, 22-25, 26-24, 25-20, 26-24.
Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said it was worth playing such elite competition early in the season.
“At this point, it’s good for us,” Buchanan said. “The kids never looked awestruck. They competed and did everything we asked them to, which is how a team should be. They never once looked down on their effort. It’s great for us going into this next weekend.”
In Idaho’s opening match against Oklahoma, Buchanan said her team looked a little sluggish, which was to be expected.
“I kind of wish that we played Oklahoma at a different time, because I think we would have competed better with them,” Buchanan said. “The kids had to get the first-match jitters out of the way.”
In the following match, the Vandals were tied 24-24 against Florida in the first set until starting defensive specialist Jenna Ellis dislocated her shoulder and was forced to sit out the remainder of the weekend.
“She wanted to play on Saturday but it was still sore,” Buchanan said. “I think the best interests in everyone’s mind is to have her sit out and rest for a little bit longer and see if we can get her back for this weekend.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Terra Varney stepped up in Ellis’ absence, recording 23 digs in the Georgia Southern match marking a new career-best.
On the verge of going down 0-2 against Georgia Southern, the Vandals found themselves down 21-24 in the second set. Idaho rallied together to produce five straight points, downing the Eagles 26-24 to tie up the match 1-1.
Idaho didn’t falter again from there clinching the match by winning the ensuing two sets.
“That shows the kids were calm and they just took it one point at a time,” Buchanan said of the comeback win. “They came back, and they believed in each other, and they started building some trust and it’s only going to get better as the season goes on.”
Junior outside hitter Katelyn Peterson led all Vandals with 10 kills versus Florida and a .286 hitting percentage. Idaho often struggled with Florida’s height, and made some costly service errors.
Highlighting the weekend for the Vandals was junior setter Meredith Coba, who finished the final match against Georgia Southern with 49 assists.