By: Keith Raad – Asst. Sports Editor
Adding Atlantic 10 Conference wins nine and 10 over the weekend, Dayton volleyball has safely put last season behind them.
Dayton knocked off Virginia Commonwealth University Friday in four sets and Davidson College Sunday in three.
The 2013 team that saw a 16-13 overall record and a fifth place 8-6 finish in the A-10, now sits at 23-5 and in first place at 10-1 in the A-10. Losing three integral seniors to graduation, the idea of “rebuilding” was something head coach Tim Horsmon believed he had to entertain.
“I didn’t know where we’d be,” Horsmon said. “I thought we had some good players and good pieces. I knew there were some things we had to fix without having them in the spring.”
After a rough spring in terms of injuries, Horsmon and his staff pieced together a starting six around junior outside hitters Alaina Turner and Jill Loiars. With junior setter Jenna Jendryk hitting instead of setting, Horsmon found solace with a tall right side presence. Junior libero Janna Krafka anchors the defense with senior defensive specialist Rachel Jones.
Moving into the setter position, freshman Jane Emmenecker adjusted quicker than Horsmon thought the rookie would.
“I think Jane is more ready than we thought she’d be in setting this tempo offense,” Horsmon said. “Because of her desire to want to be good and to be coachable accelerated the process more than we thought it might.”
Emmenecker has the most assists of all A-10 setters, posting 11.05 assists per set. Her role in controlling the offense developed quickly but was accelerated with the addition of a final piece.
Freshman middle blocker Amber Erhahon provides the cornerstone of the team’s lineup.
“We thought Amber was going to be really good,” Horsmon said. “I’m not quite sure how she handled some of that failure early. She got much better with that, playing at this level, and coming to practice every day. She’s an awesome kid who’s been challenged at this level and, offensively, she has a really fast arm swing.”
Added to the starting lineup Sept. 13 at Cleveland State University, Erhahon’s early splash has been just as surprising.
Since her addition to the lineup, the team has gone 17-3 overall.
Erhahon’s .394 hitting percentage ranks fourth in the A-10. The Albany, California, native has remained as error-free as possible, committing more than three errors only once this season.
Facing every A-10 opponent during the regular season, Dayton has defeated all but one. A thrilling five-set match with George Washington University Oct. 11 went the way of the Colonials. With chances to win the match, Dayton felt as if they let a possible undefeated season on the floor.
“We sure weren’t happy about it then, but it showed some weaknesses that we needed to pay attention to and sore up,” Horsmon said. “It was a little bit of a reminder of where we were and to not get too lost in some successes lately.”
The way the schedule shakes up, Dayton will miss out on a few second chances at teams. George Washington will not play at the Frericks Center during the regular season, making the Flyers all the hungrier for a playoff matchup.
“The way that our conference breaks down, we wanted them at home,” Horsmon said. “If our records were the same at the end, they would have the tie-break over us.”
On a rematch possibility in the conference championship, Horsmon said simply, “I’m pretty confident about who we are.”
With three matches before the tournament, Horsmon knows not to look too far ahead in a conference that he has not fully experienced. In his second coaching stint at UD after six year tenure at the University of Maryland, Horsmon loves the competition in the new A-10.
“I think there’s a lot of parity,” Horsmon said. “When we left before there was a pretty big separation between the top teams and everyone else. I don’t feel that way now. The top half of those teams are very competitive and in the mix. I think you’re seeing it every weekend right now. Teams are beating other teams.”
Still fighting to remain in first place, Dayton travels to Saint Louis for a match Saturday, then hosts La Salle and Duquesne Nov. 14 and Nov. 16, respectively.
With a first-place finish and a round one bye in the A-10 Tournament in their midst, the word “rebuilding” is a thing of the past.