Dec. 4, 2008
Game Notes in PDF Format
DAYTON, Ohio - When the University of Dayton Flyers meet the Western Michigan Broncos on Friday at the Frericks Center, it will mark 369 days since the Flyers were last in the hunt for college volleyball's Holy Grail. While the goal is still the same, UD has taken a very different path this year back to the Big Dance.
Last season's finish was unparalleled in UD history. 33-2, a record that stood among the top in the nation and earned them a No. 12 ranking last season by the AVCA; this year the Flyers are still a Top-50 program, and have earned that right from competing against some of the nation's best teams such as the Big 10 Conference's Purdue and Illinois and the BIG EAST Conference's Louisville and Cincinnati.
The Flyers battled tirelessly through their non-conference schedule. Even with key performers Yvonne Marten and Kortney Norris out of the lineup Dayton grew through their adversity finding ways to win matches after being pushed to the brink time and time again.
Looking poised to roll into the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule with a full head of steam, the unthinkable happened. AVCA All-American setter Erin Schroeder suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a torn meniscus in their final tune-up before the A-10 schedule began.
"When you lose a setter that has the experience that Erin has, it is going to be tough initially on any team," said head coach Kelly Sheffield. "At first there are a lot of things you have to figure out when going through a change. Offensively, it changes how you go about doing things and defensively what changes do you make because of the different setter's statures," said Sheffield. "After something like that you have to look at whether or not you change your goals and expectations. What we decided was, no, our goals were not going to change this year."
With Schroeder out, sophomore setter Kacie Hausfeld was thrust into the starting role for the Flyers. Despite losing the first two matches after the change, Dayton battled through, winning all but two of their A-10 matches down the stretch in the regular season. "Initially there was a fall off of our entire team's play, and it didn't have anything to do with Kacie. It was from the adjustment phase offensively and defensively," said Sheffield. "What we have come to find out is that Kacie may be a better fit for this team at this point. Her strengths are things that this team really needs. She is calm in tense situations and she has a lot of confidence in her ability and does a great job of putting the time and work in to improving as a player."
Numbers often don't tell the whole story of a team. There are many factors that can't be measured on paper about a team. A 21-12 record will not tell of the hours of sweat, the battle scars of a grueling 30-plus game schedule, or the way a team that has grown throughout the season and found ways to win, despite being battered and bruised.
"It has been a special season. You look at the record and maybe wonder why I would call this a special season, but this team has had to grow and roles have had to change more than just about any team out there," said Sheffield "We have toughened out through injuries and we played an extremely tough out of conference schedule. Through all of that we still found ourselves right in the thick of things for the Atlantic 10 Championship and we also earned an NCAA at-large berth."
Friday's match against Western Michigan marks the return of the Flyers to the main stage. Though a very different team, with different stories to tell on how they made it back for a second consecutive season, this year's Flyer squad still has the same goal.
"This team has never given up on themselves, each other or this staff," said Sheffield. "This team has done a great job of keeping their head up, working their way through problems and continuing to get better. That is a heck of a success story."
Dayton will face the Western Michigan Broncos at 7:30 p.m. at the Frericks Center. For ticket information visit www.DaytonFlyers.com