The UD volleyball team celebrates after a point during a match with George Washington University, Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Frericks Center. Dayton will be the No. 5-seed
in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, taking on No. 4-seed Saint Louis University, Friday, Nov. 22, at 5 p.m., in Washington, D.C. (Vincent Huang/Staff Photographer)
By: Keith Raad – Staff Writer
The University of Dayton volleyball team is peaking at the right time.
As sophomore outside hitter Jill Loiars crushed a kill down the line to seal a four-set victory against George Washington University (18-25, 25-10, 25-13, 28-26) Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Frericks Center, Dayton (14-12, 8-6) capped off its Atlantic 10 Conference season on quite the streak after a rough start.
Since Nov. 2, the Flyers have won four straight matches, losing only one set in that stretch. Before the winning streak, UD had a hitting percentage of .193. During the final four games of the season, Dayton hit .293, and raised its hitting percentage to .206.
“We’re on fire,” senior middle blocker Megan Campbell said. “We’re ready. We’re looking at the A-10 [Tournament bracket] saying, ‘revenge, revenge, revenge,’ down the line.”
Dayton, the four-time defending champions of the A-10 Tournament, grabbed the tournament’s fifth-seed and will match up first against fourth-seed Saint Louis University Friday, Nov. 22, at 5 p.m. The tournament will be held at the Charles E. Smith Center on the campus of George Washington University, the tournament host, in Washington, D.C.
The Flyers lost to the Billikens in a five-set thriller at the Frericks Center Sept. 29. Campbell said it was a teary-eyed wake-up call for the team.
“I think back to the first conference weekend when we lost to…SLU and I remember thinking, ‘what are we going to do?’” Campbell said.
The loss to SLU was the second of the A-10 regular season as Dayton fell to 0-2 after the first weekend of conference play.
The Flyers will have to defeat first-seed Duquesne University in the second round Friday, Nov. 23, at 5 p.m., if they defeat the Billikens. Dayton fell to the Dukes for the first time in nine years when they lost on the road in four sets Oct. 26.
Even though the Flyers lost in the first set to the Colonials Sunday, Campbell said it was of no concern for the team moving forward.
“We have been down a lot, so losing the first set is not a huge deal,” Campbell said. “It’s something that we can deal with. I think the fact that we’ve been down helps us with experience as we move into the tournament.”
Head coach Matt Affolder said he loved the reaction to adversity as well.
“I’m glad that we went out and really got after George Washington,” Affolder said. “But then I’m also glad we got in this battle and then we fought through it.”
“Fighting through it” has been sophomore outside hitter Alaina Turner’s mantra. Sidelined with a right shoulder injury, her swinging arm, Turner has been watching her teammates since Oct. 4.
Turner, the team’s go-to hitter all season, returned to play over the final weekend, collecting 30 kills and hit .304 in the team’s two matches. Prior to the weekend, Turner’s hitting percentage was .103 on the season.
“This was game one,” Turner said. “I felt good. The shoulder feels good. We’re ready.”
Sunday’s victory was also senior day for the team, with right-side hitter Shayne Brown, defensive specialist Ally Morey and Campbell receiving commendation from the crowd during a small ceremony before the victory.
Campbell, who had 16 kills and only one error in hitting .469, showed modest joy following the dominating home win, and said she is maintaining perspective on the streaking team’s current position.
“Playing good in August is great, but means nothing until November,” Campbell said. “But we can’t get too high on [Sunday], because it was senior night and it was very emotional for me and the other seniors, but we’re level headed moving forward.”
The tournament final will take place Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m., with the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament at stake.
Reaching the season’s end, including the final conference home game for the three seniors, Affolder quickly changed the day’s feeling into the oulook he and his team share.
“This isn’t the end of anything,” Affolder said. “This is the start to where we want to be.”
All volleyball games can be heard at DaytonFlyers.com.