n front of a roaring, packed house, the Horned Frog volleyball team opened the regular season with a hard-fought three-games-to-one loss, 24-30, 30-23, 22-30 and 19-30, against the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday at the University Recreation Center.Veteran head coach Prentice Lewis emphasized making quicker adjustments as the key for her young team, which consists of 16 underclassman, including eight freshmen.
“We tried to adjust, and it was very difficult with a young team,” Lewis said. “The team is still learning to make adjustments, and we didn’t make any adjustments until game four. Blocking cross-court and digging cross-court – that was the main thing – and if we would have done that a lot sooner, it would have helped us out.”
After a back-and-forth start to the first game, the Frogs tied the game at 22 and squared it again at 24 before the Sooners went on a 6-point run to take the game 30-24.
Game two started on a positive note with an ace on the line by junior outside hitter Calli Corley. The Frogs never trailed after taking an early 3-1 lead. Players said they had trouble getting to their proper places on defense.
“We were trying to block (across court), and we just weren’t getting there,” Corley said. “It was just that our defense wasn’t effective tonight.”
Corley said she believes the answer to a stronger defense is running more plays with hitters using a variety of angled shots.
With so many underclassmen on the team, veterans like Corley play a big leadership role in keeping the team together, said freshman setter Nirelle Hampton, who produced a record 40 assists.
“Most of (the upperclassmen) show leadership and experience,” she said. “They’re just kind of showing us the path so underclassman and freshman kind of learn how college ball goes.”
Lewis plans to use the nonconference games as practice for the inaugural season in the Mountain West Conference.
“We are going to use these games just trying to have our team as prepared as possible, Lewis said. “We play OU. We play Minnesota. We play (California Polytechnic). There’s a big difference as far as we don’t know what we have to face. We have to prepare – each game, each match – a little bit differently.”
Although adjustments were a consistent problem, many positive aspects of the game emerged. Sophomore Talaya Whitfield set a new career high with 15 kills.
“I think we passed really well in the game, and I also think we showed a lot of prospects,” Corley said. “At points in the game, we were getting great blocks, getting great kills. At points in the game, we showed what we can really do.”
Next for the Horned Frogs is the George Mason Tournament on Friday and Saturday in Fairfax, Va. They will face Cal Poly, George Mason, Maryland-Baltimore County and Seton Hall.
The next home matches are Sept. 16 and 17, part of the Molten/Fort Worth Plaza Invitational.