Tigers Dominate The Net: Trinity volleyball sweeps matches against Centenary

Big boost for the team after consecutive losses to Colorado College

On Saturday, March 13, the second ranked women’s volleyball team returned home to Calgaard Gym to face Centenary College for the Tigers’ first home match since Nov. of 2019. The Tigers played two best-of-five matches against Centenary, and they swept both in three sets.

The Tigers dominated the net on Saturday, consistently earning more kills and making fewer errors than their opponent in every set. This strong offensive presence was complemented by the effective blocks that Trinity was able to put up — earning a total of 18 block assists on the day, meaning the block resulted in Trinity scoring a point. Blocking is an incredibly useful defensive tool because even a soft block can make it much easier for the players in the back row to keep the ball in play—not to mention save them some bruises—as senior libero Sami Lin explained.

“The blocking was really outstanding and then also I would say, as a whole, our team’s defense is really scrappy, and it’s really fun to watch on the side because you think that a play is dead, but our players just come out of nowhere and we’re able to save a ball, and I think that is one of the main reasons why we were able to sweep the team this past weekend,” Lin said.

Senior libero Sami Lin calls out instructions to the Tigers during their match against Centenary College. The Tigers swept both matches against Centenary. Photo by Kate Nuelle

According to junior middle blocker Emma Funk, who is currently second in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) with .94 blocks per set, blocking was a major focus in practices before the matches against Centenary.

“All this past week, we’ve had a huge emphasis on blocking; blocking footwork, blocking technique in general, especially just keeping wide hands and really reading the sets in sides and shifting according to making adjustments when needed,” Funk said. “We weren’t reacting as much but anticipating where the ball was gonna go, and I think that really breaking it down throughout the play communication wise between the middle blocker and both of the pins was really executed well on Saturday, especially in that second game,” Funk said.

Just one week before the Tigers swept Centenary, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) ranked Trinity as the top team in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The top ranked Trinity Tigers, enjoying their first ever number one ranking, ran into buzzsaw in Colorado Springs, where the fourth ranked Colorado College Tigers defeated Trinity in back-to-back matches.

According to Funk, the losses to Colorado College forced the team to increase their focus on blocking.

“I think our blocking technique needed to improve from our loss in Colorado, and we didn’t recognize that gap in how many more blocks we should have been getting and how often we’re being tooled,” Funk said. “That really high level really exposes even the smallest areas that you need to work on, and we definitely recognize that blocking was one of them.”

Sophomore setter Marisa Amarino launches the ball for her teammates. The Tigers next host the University of Dallas on March 26. Photo by Kate Nuelle.

Not only did the Tigers fix the chink in their armor right away but they also exploited that same weak spot against their next opponent. Centenary’s defense had difficulty keeping the ball in play when Trinity hitters tooled off their block.

Using an opponent’s block against them was an offensive strategy that the Tigers intentionally prepared for in practice throughout the week leading up to matches against Centenary, according to senior outside hitter Annie Rose Leggett, who currently leads the SCAC with .84 aces per set.

“Every week we can work on a different skill offensively and so I think this week a main focus has been really going for blockers hands and chewing up the block to just really making sure we’re going after those hands. Especially when we have a weaker block, it’s really a key component and being able to switch up your shots and score on that, and it frustrates the other teams, so we’ve been really executing that well in practice this week,” Leggett said.

Senior outside hitter Annie Rose Leggett spikes the ball as two Centenary College defenders set up for the block. Leggett leads the SCAC with .84 aces per set. Photo by Kate Nuelle

These recent victories mark the halfway point of the modified 2021 spring season for the Tigers, which only features 16 matches — all of which are against SCAC opponents.

Winning the Centenary matches was especially important for the Tigers after their losses in Colorado. The short season means that each match has a greater impact on the conference standings, which will affect the seeding in the SCAC Championships in April. Currently the Tigers are technically tied with Austin College for third, but Trinity has more points for (PF) and fewer points against (PA).

Trinity will next host the University of Dallas on Saturday, March 26. Fans are currently not allowed to attend games, but people can still support the volleyball team by watching the game online or by getting a cardboard cutout of themselves to attend the game in their place.