| March 22, 2018

Volleyball: Young team steps up, focuses on errors

September 18, 2015

With three invitationals completed, the Idaho volleyball team heads south this weekend to the Golden Eagle Invitational in Cookeville, Tennessee, for the team’s final invitation before Big Sky Conference play starts.

Idaho first plays Western Carolina Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Towson at 3 p.m. The Vandals’ final match is against host Tennessee Tech Saturday at 6:30 a.m.

One of the stories for the Vandals this season has been their attempt to reduce errors.

Senior defensive specialist Jenna Ellis said the errors committed last weekend are among several adjustments the team is working on in practice this week.

“That’s something that is in all of our control,” Ellis said. “Slowing down our errors but just keep getting our defense better, our passing, our serving and keeping our offense there.”

Redshirt freshman outside hitter Kaela Straw also said the Vandals need to reduce errors.

“We really need to work on controlling our errors but we played well against St. Francis,” Straw said.

The Vandals earned their second win last Saturday in a 3-0 sweep against the Terriers. It was Idaho’s only win at the North Harbour Marriott Invitational in Portland, Oregon.

Idaho dropped the other two matches against Cal Poly (3-1) and Portland (3-0) before facing St. Francis.

Senior outside hitter Tineke Bierma, the only Vandal who earned all-tournament honors in Portland, said the team must stay consistent on both sides of the court and hopes the upcoming invitational in Cookeville is the start of Idaho’s momentum.

“We just have to put all the pieces together,” Bierma said. “We had games where our defense and our passing have just been great and it’s all been there. But then our offense hasn’t been quite there. This past weekend I think our offense was starting to get there. Our passing and defense was starting to lock a little bit. If we can just put both of them together and have a full complete game, then we’re going to do really well when we’re going to conference.”

Idaho’s underclassmen have also been a story this season with several players stepping up each week, including last weekend when freshman setter Natalie Jensen led Idaho in assists with 56 over the three-match period.

The Tacoma, Washington native said it took her some time to overcome her nerves and is still learning how to connect with her new teammates during matches because of the different atmosphere.

“It’s different in practice than it is on the court,” Jensen said. “Basically I’m getting a feel on the court and playing with everybody.”

Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said it’s the upperclassmen’s responsibility to step up as leaders to help the young team get going in the right direction.

Bierma said at first the group of freshmen had a difficult time transitioning to Buchanan’s coaching style but quickly caught on and the team started to work on chemistry.

Buchanan said the team must be consistent in each game like it did against St. Francis.

“The errors from top to bottom right now is what we need to control and we can do it,” Buchanan said. “We got to be able to show up and play our game.”

After the upcoming invitational, the Vandals begin Big Sky play starting with Northern Colorado at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Gym.

Luis Torres can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

Photo by: Yishan Chen

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