By: Keith Raad – Asst. Sports Editor
Riding a 10-match winning streak into the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, Flyer volleyball will search for their first title since 2012.
Dayton capped off an impressive comeback season finishing 26-5 overall with a four-set victory Sunday against Duquesne University.
The Flyers secured a first-round bye with a win Friday versus La Salle, and will now face the winner of University of Rhode Island and Virginia Commonwealth University.
With the Frericks Center hosting the tournament, senior defensive specialist Rachel Jones is excited about the comforts of home.
“It’s a special atmosphere,” Jones said. “The last time we hosted was my freshman year and we won. It’s amazing to have our crowd and fans behind us.”
Jones and senior middle blocker Isolde Hannan were celebrated Sunday for senior day. Both student-athletes have the resume to bring home another title. 2014 marks the third season out of four that Jones and Hannan have been a part of a team that has nabbed the A-10 Regular Season Championship.
With a target on their backs again, Dayton knows they will get each opponents best shot. Duquesne, the 2013 tournament champion, gave Dayton a run for their money Sunday in the regular season finale.
“It was fun,” junior outside hitter Alaina Turner said. “It’s always cool to blow teams out, but it’s much more fun to be in such a competitive environment going back-and-forth.”
Dayton has downed all A-10 teams save George Washington University, the No. 2 overall seed, who also received a bye in the tournament.
The way the tournament shapes up, Dayton will face the winner of URI and VCU while George Washington faces either Saint Louis University or Duquesne.
“We know that each of the six teams has a real shot at this thing,” head coach Tim Horsmon said. “We have to be ready for that. But I’m confident in this group we have. We’re very happy to be home.”
The Flyers loss to George Washington came Oct. 11 in five-sets. Though they’re not looking too far ahead, Turner and Jones both agree that they want one more shot at the Colonials.
“We definitely want them again,” Turner said. “We know that we’re a team that always rises to the occasion. That’s the opportunity that we want if we can get it.”
The final match of the season was one of the toughest tests for the Flyer team, but one which Horsmon loved to have as preparation.
“Today I felt like we played more scrappy than well,” Horsmon said. “But we were resilient against Duquesne.”
Dayton dropped the first set 25-17, allowing the Dukes to hit .438. Dayton would hold off Duquesne, however, holding them under .175 in the next three sets.
Turner smashed a career-high 25 kills hitting over .370 for the second-consecutive match. The numbers have been the reason for Dayton’s success this year under a new head coach.
“This season our focus has had so much to do with setting goals,” Jones said. “We set percentage numbers for our team, dig numbers for ourselves, and it really helps us focus during the match.”
Jones ranks in the top 10 in digs in the conference, posting the highest dig/set mark of her career with 2.73.
“Though it seems like the number can hinder us, it really does the opposite,” Jones said. “By trying to hit our stat goals it consistently challenges us all match.”
Dayton’s consistency has paid off this season as the team has not lost back-to-back games all year, hitting winning streaks of nine and now 10 matches this season.
“We’re playing well,” Horsmon said. “But we have to remain at our highest level to be successful. We know we’ll get everyone’s best shot, but now is our chance to prove why there’s a target on our backs.”
Dayton gets going Saturday night.
The tournament begins Friday at Frericks Center with two matches. The four seed versus five seed matchup, URI vs. VCU, will begin at 4:30 p.m. The second match, No. 3 Saint Louis and No. 6 Duquesne is scheduled for 7 p.m. Check DaytonFlyers.com or Atlantic10.com for more information on the championship round.