After a three-game skid Sept. 2-3 in Seattle, the Idaho volleyball team lost two of its three matches this weekend in the Washington State University Cougar Challenge in Pullman.
Idaho dropped its match against regional rival Washington State 3-0 (10-25, 13-25, 17-25).
Junior outside hitter Becca Mau earned All-Tournament and averaged 12.3 kills per game.
The weekend began slow for Idaho after a loss 3-0 loss (30-32, 19-25, 21-25) against George Washington Friday.
Mau and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Sharp combined for 28 kills.
Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said the team should have used the first loss as motivation.
“We had kids trying their own things and making their own choices offensively, instead of keeping to the game plan,” Buchanan said in a news release. “We are young and that is something we are going to need to work through.”
The Vandals took down Maryland Eastern Shore 3-1 (25-13, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21) Friday to end a four- game losing streak.
Junior middle blocker Torrin Crawford said the team’s chemistry is becoming more cohesive.
“That game gave us confidence going into Saturday’s match,” Crawford said. “In the fourth set, we just had urgency and we needed to play every point.”
Buchanan said the team came out with more energy and played as a team compared to the first game Friday.
“We have those regrets where we wished we would have come out like that Friday morning and the team felt that,” Buchanan said. “At least we put up some good numbers offensively to make the blocker have to decide who she’s going to commit to block.”
Idaho had three pin hitters above 10 kills. Mau led with 15 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Kaela Straw followed with 13.
Sharp, who had nine kills against the Hawks, said the win was a confidence booster.
“We all have the ability to have a good game every day,” Sharp said. “But it’s nice when there’s a well-rounded group of girls that are doing well each game instead of just two.”
Idaho’s hitting percentage was a tournament team-high 0.33 to the Hawks 0.15.
Freshman setter Megan Ramseyer ended the night with her first double-double of 26 assists and 10 digs.
Senior defensive specialist Terra Varney’s 36 digs put her sixth on Idaho’s all-time digs list with 1,113. She needs four more to surpass Heather Kniss (1998-2001) for fifth.
Despite a turnaround against the Hawks, Idaho struggled to compete with Washington State’s competitive blocking. The Vandals ended the match with a season-low 0.02 hitting percentage Saturday.
Buchanan said the team had similar issues with Washington State and George Washington.
“That’s probably one of the bigger teams we’re going to face as far as blocking,” Buchanan said. “I thought we did some really good things but too many times we didn’t stay in our system. When you look at the two teams, we looked really young today.”
Straw led the team with seven kills and Mau had five to wrap up her All-Tournament run.
Mau wasn’t focused on her accolade in Pullman.
“If we can just get our passing up to that net so we can run our offense, it’s going to do some great things for us,” Mau said. “We just need to (focus) more about action especially going into our next tournament. We’re great on all aspects, so we just got to put it all together now.”
Mau said it’s difficult to not focus on the Washington State game.
“It’s really hard because they’re across the border and there’s a little bit more of that competitiveness,” Mau said. “At first we looked a little frazzled, worked through some things halfway in the match and started to get into a rhythm. But at the end of the day, they’re huge and got that big block and we just have to go back to the drawing board and come back this weekend and be more competitive.”
Buchanan said the biggest takeaway from the tournament is the offensive progress.
“We worry too much about every little play, instead of ‘OK, it’s an error, can I learn from it and can I come back and fix it on the next play?’” Buchanan said. “(This) week is going to be just as tough, we got three really good teams coming in. We’re challenging our team right now.”
Idaho hosts the Idaho Volleyball Classic Thursday and Friday. The Vandals play Wyoming at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Memorial Gym. To close the tournament, Idaho plays Tennessee Tech at 12:30 p.m. Friday and Oregon State at 7 p.m. Friday
Luis Torres can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TheLTFiles