MOSCOW - Coming off 3 disappointing losses to Utah State, Long Beach, and Irvine in their last 4 matches, the Vandal volleyball squad faces a tremendously tough task as they try to qualify for the NCAA tournament for a second straight year. Coach Debbie Buchanan has said throughout the season she feels it will take 20 wins to qualify for the tournament. The Vandals are now 14-8 with 7 matches --including 5 on the road -- remaining.
The Vandals begin their final charge this week with a trip to California facing UC Santa Barbara Thursday and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Saturday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m.
"We're still making a push," Buchanan said Monday afternoon. "We have 3 matches for sure that I know we can get which would put us at 17 (wins)...I think we need to have 20 wins to make the NCAA tournament. It's still possible, but we've got some work to do ahead of us. Now we're on the road for 5 of those matches: Pacific Cal Poly, Santa Barbara, Northridge, Colorado State. We look to get 3 out of those 5. It's going to be tough, but we have the team to do it if they just decide to...play at our level. That's what we're trying to push for, trying to get the kids to believe. It's not over. We still have a chance, and we have to make sure that we're pushing for our goals every day in practice. We've got to run our offense. We've got to be able to run the plays that work for us."
Buchanan said some calls that went against the Vandals didn't help matters last week in their home losses to Long Beach and Irvine, but by the same token the Vandals had trouble maintaining focus at key points in the match, specifically in a decisive fourth game which Long Beach won by a 30-27 tally. "I thought we were playing a great game," she said. In game 4 the officials gave Long Beach points 28 and 20 and that was devastating, but if you go back and look, we really let about 8 points go where we had the lead but had too many errors. When you play a good team you can't have that many errors in a game. We had 12 hitting errors just in that game 4. Then we had a couple of service errors; so right there we gave them 14 points. Then we had 2 net calls so we're at 16 points. Out of 30, you just can't give up that many points. We try to tell our kids that we need to take more responsibility for the match. We have to have more focus in a match. You can't allow your focus to stop at any point within a game, and we really became unfocused...in game 4."
"Our team ...can play at a much higher level. We want to be in the top 4 or 5 teams that are competing for those spots in the Big West. You have to play focused and be able to run your offense, to pass and do your thing. We just broke down a little bit. We need to be better than that."
It's a daunting task, but the Vandals are capable of pulling it off according to Buchanan. "These kids have a lot of talent, and they do have a lot of heart. We'll just keep pushing things together. We have 4 weeks of regular season left: On the road for 3 and home for 1. We'll be gone this weekend; the next weekend is our senior weekend. We have Riverside and Fullerton at home."
After hosting Riverside and Fullerton next week the Vandals wrap up the regular season with trips to Pacific Nov. 20 and Colorado State Nov. 24.
Volleyball Begins Final Push
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