The first eight days of conference play have gone as well as possible for Maryville College’s volleyball team.
Coach Kandis Schram hopes it has not lulled her Scots to sleep because if it has, they could be in for a rude awakening this week.
Beginning today, Maryville (13-6, 4-0) will face the two teams closest to it in the USA South Athletic Conference’s West Division. Only one of the Scots’ matches this week is at home, and they’ll play host to Berea (7-9, 3-1) today at 7 p.m.
On Saturday they’ll travel to LaGrange, Georgia, to face Huntingdon (13-10, 4-0) and LaGrange 4-14, 2-2).
“This week is huge. It’s really three big matches,” Schram said. “Berea is a tremendously improved squad that plays unpredictable. When a team doesn’t play clean you never know what to expect. They’re going to come hard.”
Ironically, playing clean is the aspect Maryville has focused on the most. Schram wants her players to have a plan when they receive the ball. In order to receive the ball well this week the Scots will have to have their heads on a swivel from one match to another.
Berea will play a short game with fewer swings when they attack. Huntingdon plays fast. LaGrange has bigger players who put up a strong block.
Maryville has won 15 consecutive sets. In fact, all 13 of its victories this season have been via sweeps. The closest the Scots have come to dropping a set during conference play was Saturday against Piedmont.
In the second set, Maryville fought off one set point trailing 25-24, and then Piedmont did the same with Maryville ahead 26-25. The Scots finally finished off a 28-26 win with a kill and a service ace by Meredith Bonee.
“Piedmont almost got us one set,” Schram said. “We know it will happen. It is inevitable. Really we’re just trying to focus on playing clean and crisp and play our game.”
To the top of the table
The women’s team is in strong position at the top of the division after beating reigning conference tournament champion Piedmont 1-0 on the road Friday.
Shannon Reagan scored an unassisted goal in the 15th minute to give the Scots (7-4, 3-0) the only goal they needed in perhaps the most critical game of the regular season. It was important for their psyche, too.
Maryville’s home turf is grass so the players are not used to playing on the turf that Piedmont (8-5-1, 3-1) boasts. The Scots beat the Lions in Maryville during the regular season last year. When they met on turf for the conference tournament championship game, Piedmont won.
“The first part of the game (Friday) we struggled with that,” Fernandez said. “We were able to get the ball settled down, knock it around and play a possession-based game and create a lot of good chances. A lot of the time when we’ve gone down there we weren’t able to do that.
“Going down there and really when they come here those games have really determined the No. 1 seed for the past few years in the conference. It’s a step forward for us to put them behind us.”
The Scots will face another undefeated conference team on Saturday when Huntingdon (3-6-2, 2-0-1) visits for a 1 p.m. kickoff. They’ll face Agnes Scott (4-5, 2-0) at home on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Not a typo
That the final score of the Scots’ game at Brevard on Oct. 2 was 5-0 was not surprising. The winner, however, likely shocked the entire conference.
Maryville (8-4, 6-1) conceded two goals on set plays in the first half and despite Brevard playing with 10 men for the final 60 minutes shipped three more goals en route to a rare lopsided loss.
The Scots, who pushed numbers forward in an effort to chase the two first-half goals, have not conceded five goals in one game in the last seven years. They had given up four goals this season in nine games leading up to it.
“Brevard played well,” Fernandez said. “They had a great crowd there. They were excited. They kind of got on us and rattled us a little bit. All of those factors you would think, ‘That’s a misprint. Maryville might have won that game 5-0,’ but we didn’t.”
The setback drops Maryville three points behind top-of-the-table Covenant, but Maryville can still claim the West Division title by winning out.
If they win at Covenant (10-1-1, 7-0) on Saturday they’ll pull level and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Both teams have six games remaining in the regular season.
Personal bests galore
Four runners on the men’s cross-country team set personal bests at the Greater Louisville Class on Saturday and another wrote his name in the record books.
Senior Daniel Beckett finished the 8,000-meter course in 26 minutes, 41 seconds, which is the second fastest 8K in school history.
The four who set personal bests were senior Ryan Lay, junior Richard Martin, sophomore Cooper Harrison and freshman Parker Owens.
Players of the Week
Two athletes picked up weekly awards from the USA South.
Senior Shannon Reagan was named Women’s Soccer Player of the Week after a four-goal, two-assist performance in two conference victories.
Reagan had three goals and two assists in a 7-0 win over Berea and then scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Piedmont. She leads the league with 11 goals and is second in the league with five assists.
Freshman libero Natalie Watts was named the Volleyball Defensive Player of the Week. She averaged 7.7 digs per set to help the Scots go 3-0 last week. She had 19 digs in one set of a sweep against Johnson University.