The long wait for the volleyball season is finally over.
The Idaho Vandals begin their quest to the Big Sky Tournament Friday against No. 18 Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. Idaho will also play Oregon State Saturday and Wichita State Sunday as part of this year’s Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational.
Oregon State and Wichita State earned votes for the NCAA rankings but didn’t make the top-25 list.
One of the major stories going into the first week of play is the return of senior setter Meredith Coba, who sat out late in the 2014 season with a knee injury.
Coach Debbie Buchanan said Coba is the second player in her previous 15 seasons to sustain an ACL injury.
Buchanan said Coba will be ready to go this weekend and said she took her injury quite well.
“She’s definitely moving well,” Buchanan said. She’s stronger. She came back, set a great tempo, touched on the balls good, we didn’t have to worry about catching any of that stuff up. Even when she came back that first day, you couldn’t tell that she was favoring one (knee) or the other, so that’s a good sign when you come back.”
Katelyn Peterson, a senior outside hitter, said Coba told the team that it was her first real adversity she had to face and is hungrier than ever to return this weekend.
Peterson said Coba’s return is an opportunity to play the game she loves with more meaning. “After working through all those challenges, working so hard to come back and actually getting the opportunity to play again, there’s so much more on the line and a lot more motivation than she already had,” Peterson said.
“She had her hard moments but she was so optimistic the whole time,” Peterson said. “We are just trying to be there for her, be understanding and make sure we knew we are there for her and just offering any support that we could. Knowing that end goal was for her to be back out playing the sport that she loves and she’s seen her hard work paid off, so it’s been awesome to watch.”
Senior defensive specialist Jenna Ellis said the situation was hard for the team.
Both Ellis and Peterson praised Coba’s perseverance on returning to the court as an uplifting moment.
“We’re all really excited just to have her back,” Ellis said. “It definitely was upsetting but we had great players trying to step up and time flew by and now here she is.”
In situations when an athlete is injured, team support comes into play, which Buchanan said is a team effort rather than one person leading the way.
Until they play against Hawaii in front of an enthusiastic crowd, Buchanan said they can’t assume how the other teams will do, no matter how well or poor each team they’ll face played last season, especially when they begin playing against other teams in the Big Sky Conference. Buchanan said the Vandals will be facing challenges that’ll help them once they face their first Big Sky opponent — Northern Colorado Sept. 24 at Memorial Gym..
“Anything can happen in this first weekend,” Buchanan said. “We have the choice to either schedule really easy and get those wins or you play tough teams and you try to get the win that way. RPI (Rating Percentage Index) wise it’s gonna help us more to have a tougher weekend than an easier one with wins. There’s times that you can get a win and you drop on your RPI points versus playing a tough team and maybe you lose that game but you’re gonna have a higher RPI just because of your strength of schedule.”
Luis Torres can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org