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Volleyball team looks to build off impressive weekend

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One week ago, it looked like the Bulls (11-8, 4-4 MAC) were losing control of their season. They started the year strong with big non-conference wins and won their first two conference games, but the team soon came under hard times losing four straight conference games.

The Bulls had tough matchups this past weekend and it didn't seem likely they would improve. First, against the Northern Illinois Huskies (5-18, 4-4 MAC) coming in on a three- game winning streak and the Western Michigan Broncos (12-7, 5-3 MAC) who were first in the MAC west division going in.

The Bulls won both games handily.

“We raised the standard this weekend and that's now the new expectation, that is our new lowest level,” said head coach Blair Lipsitz. “We went in there focused, ready to get those wins.”

Lipsitz credited the team's recent troubles to a lack of focus that caused them to hit slumps in games. She said the team has been working on consistency and defense in practice in the week prior, which showed as the Bulls only lost one set, 25-23, the whole weekend.

“The biggest change I saw was in the level of confidence which wasn’t there these past two weekends,” Lipsitz said.

Lipsitz feels the added confidence led to the team’s strong performance and refocusing. The Bulls clicked offensively; multiple players having 15 or more kills in the game. Sophomore outside hitter Polina Prokudina had 21 kills in the game against Western Michigan, her fourth 20 plus kill performance of the season.

“It was really important for us to change our mentality and deal with the mental game,” Prokudina said. “I make those hits on my own, but my teammates are the ones who set me up and get the ball back so I can spike it again. I am just so proud of my team.”

Prokudina attributes her weekend performance to the entire team's play. The players and Lipsitz credit the strong weekend to all the starters’ performances.

The Bulls have eight games left in conference play and sit three games behind first place in the MAC.

“The MAC is a tough conference so there are no easy games. We need to stay focused for the rest of the season,” Lipsitz said. “They started with a lot of fight early in the season and that is something they are going to have to keep up the whole season.”

Both Lipsitz and her players stressed the importance of taking it one weekend at a time. This team mentality focuses the players and coaches on their next opponent.

“When we went into the weekend the losses weren’t even on our mind. That was last week, we were on to the next one,” said senior middle blocker Cassie Shado. “We are mentally locked in; that helps us as middles to hold the block which allows our hitters to come in with clean kills.”

Shado feels the Bulls can play with anyone in the conference. MAC teams have been trading wins and losses all season. The only team more than two games ahead of the Bulls are the first place Bowling Green Falcons (11-8, 7-1 MAC).

The Bulls are in prime position for a strong final eight games, even with four conference losses on their record.

The Bulls play this weekend in a road doubleheader, starting Friday against the Central Michigan Chippewas (10-10, 2-6 MAC) and on Saturday against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (10-14, 2-6 MAC).

“Those teams aren’t going to give us an easy win. We know they are going to be looking for a fight and we are going to be ready for that,” Lipsitz said. “This past weekend we showed what we can do. Now we just have to do it week in and week out.”

Thomas Zafonte is a co-senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com


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