Written By: Neil Frawley
The Valdosta State University’s volleyball team sits just three spots out of first place in the Gulf South Conference standings, and carry a perfect 9-0 home record into their second to last home stand against University of North Alabama on Friday followed by University of Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday.
Coach Mike Swan spoke to his team after practice on Wednesday about being able to control their own destiny as long as they play smart and focused.
VSU currently ranks sixth in the south regional rankings according to NCAA.com, which includes teams from the Sunshine State Conference. The top three teams in the region receive automatic bids to the Division II national tournament.
“I think it’s just a matter of us realizing that it’s make or break time… it’s basically up to us at this point,” head coach Mike Swan said.
While VSU has proven its ability to win in its own building, on the road the team has shown less consistency, losing four on the road and three on neutral courts.
If VSU finishes in the top four of the conference, they will host the first match of the tournament. But being comfortable playing on neutral courts is very critical to be successful in the playoffs.
With only one road match left on the season, VSU won’t get much more experience testing their skills in hostile environments.
“I don’t know, I think we just get it into our heads a crowd is going to intimidate us, or because we’re not playing at home we’re not going to have the crowd support, or be emotionally into it as much,” Swan said.
Of course, Coach Swan isn’t looking that far ahead, as he sagely stays focused on the opponent at hand, rather than looking ahead to the postseason.
“I honestly don’t ever look ahead. I just stay focused on the opponent ahead” Swan said.
UNA, VSU’s next opponent, beat the Blazers the last time they played each other. That match was played on Friday, Sept 26.
UNA sits one spot above VSU in the conference standings and will be VSU’s only opponent above .500 before the end of the regular season, presenting an opportunity to ascend the standings.
All three teams ahead of VSU in the standings still have matches to play against one another, with Shorter having to play University of West Florida on Nov. 4, UWF must play both SU and UNA, and UNA still has UWF to play.
After UNA and UAH, VSU will play one road match against West Georgia before playing Mississippi College and West Alabama University next weekend.
The GSC tournament will begin on Nov. 13. VSU will host the match if they are in the top four of the conference, and if they keep winning they will play the rest of the tournament at the site of the top team in the conference, which currently is SU.
“Right now we are in the mix, and that’s why I said it’s kind of up to us at this point to take care of business,” Swan said.