Trinity volleyball sets records despite loss

The Trinity Women’s Volleyball team hosted the Southern Collegiate Athletic conference (SCAC) cross divisional tournament this past weekend, finishing the weekend with a 2-2 weekend record and a 3-4 overall conference record. Over the course of the weekend the Tigers faced four conference opponents, including Centenary, University of Dallas, Austin College and Colorado College.

Sophomore outside hitter Kirby Smith led the SCAC with 198 kills, and junior setter Erika Edrington averaged 9.55 assists per set.

The Tigers opened the weekend on Saturday against 13th nationally ranked Colorado College, falling in three close sets (25-13, 25-23, 26-24). Colorado is now 7-0 in conference play.

Despite this loss, the Tigers rebounded in the afternoon, claiming their third conference win over Austin College winning 3-1 (25-15, 22-25, 25-17, 25-18). Driving the Tigers’ efforts on the court was both the Tigers’ explosive offense and their decisive defense. Smith hit .400 against Austin College and notched a season high 19 kills.

“Kirby [Smith] has been playing like a senior this season, and I am very impressed with her performance this past weekend,” said Julie Jenkins, volleyball head coach.

Many of Smith’s kills on Saturday were the result of Edrington’s 75 assists and 26 digs in day one of the competition. Additional support came from seniors Shannon Courtney’s 29 digs on Saturday alone.  

In her 31 years as head coach of the volleyball, Jenkins cannot remember a time when first years and sophomores were consistently in the starting lineup in the hitter positions.  This year’s youthful roster is anchored by veteran libero, Courtney, setter Edrington and the other upperclassmen such as seniors Megan Reynolds and Sarah Price.

“These girls are really the core of our team, and they proved to me [this past weekend] that they can be resilient and mentally tough no matter who the competition is,” Jenkins said.

Sunday’s two matches challenged the Tigers to maintain their consistent quality of defense, especially when the sets were being played point by point.

The Tigers swiftly defeated Centenary College, due in part to Edrington’s 22 assists and Courtney’s season best of five service aces. The Tigers exerted their dominance in the second set in particular, hitting .417. Reynolds smashed six kills, finishing the first game of the day hitting an impressive .500. Smith continued to lead the offensive efforts of the Tigers with 14 kills and eight digs.

The final match of the weekend ended in a tense and action-packed fifth set in which the Tigers slipped just short of avenging an early 0-2 lead by the University of Dallas.  

“[It was a] really hard-fought but frustrating match result. But regardless, I am really impressed by the girls’ will to win this weekend, especially when we were down 0-2 in the match against the University of Dallas,” Jenkins said.

In preparation for the University of Dallas’ offensive lineup, the Tigers had to change their defensive game plan in order to adjust.

“We had to adjust our defense to their style of play because they use the middle more than other teams in the conference,” Smith said.

Despite this, first two sets posed a serious threat to the Tigers’ defense, as they quickly fell 0-2 (22-25, 24-26).

“We did not manage the errors that we made, whether that was a missed serve or a weak pass,” Jenkins said. “We need to continue to work on high pressure situations in practice so that we can minimize these forced errors.”

Going into the third set, Smith and her teammates were urged by Jenkins to enjoy this exciting opportunity to come back from being two sets down but also reminded them to have fun on the court.

Following Jenkins’ locker room advice prior to the third set, the Tigers came back swinging in the third and fourth sets, winning rather decisively 25-16 and 25-19.

Riding the momentum from their third and fourth set victories, the Tigers’ offense continued to expose the gaps in Dallas’ defense with powerful hitting and precise passing. Smith’ rounded out her weekend performance hitting .327, with 23 kills and 21 digs. Edrington delivered 51 assists and accounted for 19 digs in the final match. Courtney led the Tigers with 27 digs, and first year hitter Sarah Mullens added 15 digs and three service aces. Price added 14 digs of her own, in addition to keeping the Tiger’s organized in transition from offense to defense. Her leadership, alongside Courtney’s, made a big difference in the final three sets of play against Dallas.

Despite the statistical records, the Tigers fell just short in the fifth and final set, losing 16-14.

In her remarks about the final game of the weekend, Jenkins had nothing but positive criticism and reflection.

“Most importantly, the girls need to keep believing in themselves,” Jenkins said. “I was confident that they could come back with a win that third set versus Dallas because our mental resilience is the essential fiber of our team, and it drives our will to win.”

Now halfway through their fall season, the Tigers have numerous opportunities in the coming weeks to claim their spot in the conference standings.

The Tigers will remain at home this coming weekend, hosting the Trinity Fall Classic and playing four non-conference matches.

The Tigers will open the weekend against Rowan University of New Jersey at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 followed by Nebraska Wesleyan University at 7 p.m.

On Saturday Trinity faces Hardin-Simmons University at 12:15 p.m. and local rival Our Lady of the Lake University at 5:00 p.m.