By: Katie Obear – Staff Writer
The Dayton volleyball team has been on a 24-match winning streak, dating back to a Sept. 12 home victory over Eastern Illinois in the Dayton Invitational. The streak is tied for the longest active streak in the nation with Arkansas State. After starting the season slowly with a 2-5 record, the Flyers finished their regular season with a 26-5 record.
“One thing we really emphasize is playing one way, so from the beginning of the season when we are playing teams that weren’t so good, we were still playing like they were a Penn State or something,” redshirt senior middle blocker Angel Agu said. “We’re [always] playing like [it is] a championship weekend so I think that we have carried that through our whole season. So we are just going to keep playing the same, keep working hard in the gym, and preparing for the team that comes our way.”
UD earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 22 after their win over the Saint Louis Bilikens, 3-0, in the Atlantic 10 Championship. Dayton earned the number one seed in the A-10 Championship and a first-round bye. They played fourth-seeded George Washington in the semifinals and won 3-2, and then swept SLU for the title. The Flyers have now won the A-10 Championship 10 times after winning it for the first time in 2003. The Flyers have won in 3-0 sweeps in 15 of their matches this season.
The Flyers won the conference championship last season as well, and Dayton made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual national champion Penn State 3-0.
“I thought we were as prepared as we could be last year, and we ended up playing Penn State who won the National Championship,” head coach Tim Horsmon said. “You hope for a good draw and that you are playing your best volleyball, and [to] control the things that you can and not worry about the things you can’t.”
UD has made it to the second round in years past as well, finishing with a loss in the second round back in 2012 against Oregon, 3-0. In total they have made it to the NCAA Tournament 11 times beginning in 2003. The Flyers are 6-10 overall in the NCAA Tournament.
“It feels great, I think we’ve really worked to be at the point that we are, undefeated in conference, and winning the tournament,” Agu said. “I think we are all very confident but I think we are still going to play like we are underdogs.”
The team wrapped up their last game on Nov. 27, against Ohio University, the champions of the Mid-American Conference, winning 3-0. This season the Flyers ended with an undefeated record in conference games. UD came close to being undefeated last season, with only one conference loss in 2014.
Dayton racked up four individual conference awards at the end of the season, all repeats from a year ago. Senior outside hitter Alaina Turner was named A-10 Player of the Year, senior libero Janna Krafka was named Libero of the Year and sophomore setter Jane Emmenecker was named Setter of the Year. Horsmon also shared Coach of the Year honors with Rhode Island’s Bob Schneck. The Flyers expressed the importance of their early-round matchups in the NCAA Tournament. The bracket was announced on Sunday night.
“We are hoping to get a good draw, I think last year was a little unfortunate that we got drawn to Penn State because they became the national champion,” senior outside hitter Jill Loiars said prior to the bracket being announced. “But hopefully we get a good enough draw where we can compete and hopefully win and make it to the Sweet Sixteen.”
However, in a repeat of last season, Dayton was placed in Penn State’s quadrant of the bracket when the bracket was released Sunday night. The Flyers will play Villanova on Penn State’s campus in the first round on Friday at 5 p.m., and would in all likelihood face seventh-seeded Penn State, who plays Howard in the first round, in the second round Sunday.
Photo: Two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Alaina Turner (No. 10) and the Flyers have a potential second-round matchup with Penn State looming in the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions eliminated Dayton in the second round of the tournament last year. Chris Santucci/Multimedia Editor