An excellent start to the season and a new high ranking has University of Dayton volleyball head coach Kelly Sheffield unfazed about where his team currently stands.
“It was just the start of our season,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go.”
Dayton could not have asked for a better start though. The team flew out of the gate with a 3-0 start to its season, winning the 2012 Flyer Classic from Aug. 24-26 at the Frericks Center, including wins over the previously ranked No. 7 and 11 teams in the country.
The Flyers went from only receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll to achieving the highest rank in program history at 11th in the poll released on Monday, Aug. 27. The previous high came from a 12th ranking during the week of Nov. 22, 2010.
The focus for coach Sheffield, though, does not involve the number next to his team.
“You don’t worry about where you’re ranked,” Sheffield said. “It’s great for the program. I mean obviously we’d rather be ranked than unranked. We’d rather be winning than losing. As a team, they have to put their energy on getting better. That’s what I really care about.”
Dayton now travels to the University Plaza Invitational from Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in Springfield, Mo., for three matches against Austin Peay State University, Oral Roberts University and host Missouri State University.
“We’re playing three teams that are on our schedule that are good,” he said. “To add an element to it, this is our first road trip. We don’t have that tidal wave that’s in Frericks backing you up. When things aren’t going well, can you keep things up without that help? I’m looking forward to seeing how we do that.”
The tournament hosts MSU includes junior middle blocker Andrea Beaty, who is a transfer from Saint Louis University that Sheffield said he thought was SLU’s best player. Sheffield also said he likes junior setter Carly Thomas, whom he coached on the USA Women’s National A2 Team in May 2011.
“Missouri State is one of the winningest programs in volleyball history,” he said. “They play the game the right way. Year in and year out, they’re right there in the NCAA tournament mix. Playing at their place won’t be an easy thing to do.”
UD will look to its service game again this weekend as it did in the Flyer Classic. UD held a 20-3 ace advantage over its opening three opponents, which Sheffield said comes from an approach of wanting to create “havoc” for the opposing team by not just putting the ball in play.
Junior libero and defensive specialist Allyson Morey led UD last season in service aces with 42, but recorded just one in the opening weekend. She said she felt a bit off, but knows she has time to improve when the entire team is having sound performances in that area.
“I know my strength has been serving, and it hasn’t been very good at the beginning of the season, but everyone else did so well,” Morey said. “We always try and go in with the mentality that if we can pass well and serve well, that’s going to become a staple of this team.”
That staple helped Dayton open the season strong, but Morey said she shares her coach’s attitude.
“That weekend is over now,” she said.