Earning your first home victory in your new gym, in front of your new fans and with your new players is always a special moment.
Unfortunately for the new UW-L volleyball coach Amber Dunn, that moment took a while to experience. The biggest reason why was scheduling.
Maybe that’s what made Saturday a little sweeter, as the Eagles took care of business at home by sweeping UW-Stout 25-16, 25-22, 25-23 in front of 175 spectators. It was the Eagles sixth consecutive victory.
Despite playing 15 matches, UW-L had played only one home game prior to Saturday’s showdown against Stout and that didn’t go well as the Eagles fell to Luther in four sets on Sep. 15.
“It’s nice to win at home and we are working on defending our home court, because for whatever reason this seems to be a tough place to play for us right now,” said Dunn, a former Viterbo University player. “We are going to figure it out and practice on it in the next couple of weeks.”
Unlike against Luther — where the Eagles started slow, dropping the first set against the Norse — the Eagles started fast against Stout, scoring the first six points of the opening set, which proved critical against a scrappy Blue Devils’ team that entered Saturday with a 5-11 record.
“It’s very difficult,” Dunn said when asked how hard it is to play against a team with nothing to lose. “We knew coming into tonight that would we see what we call a junkyard dog style volleyball. They play a lot of scrappiness, they pick up a lot of balls, which tends to frustrate teams like us. It’s great that we found a way to dig in and get through it.”
The Eagles featured a balanced attack as Kathryn Maas and Stephanie Henk each led UW-L with 10 kills, while freshman Laine Hoeffel recorded nine.
“I thought we converted really well, meaning we had a lot of first pass kills,” said Henk who leads the Eagles with 197 kills after recording 418 a season ago. “Even if the pass wasn’t great our hitters did really well and made it work adjusting and hitting shots. Maddie (Entinger) did a really great job pushing offense and pushing the middle when we were off the net.”
Entinger had a team-high 39 assists to set up the potent Eagles attack that finished with 47 kills and a hitting percentage of .221.
It goes down as a sweep, but the Blue Devils made the Eagles earn it. This was evident in the third set when Stout staved off elimination rattling off seven straight points to make it 24-23, but Dunn called a timeout to give the Eagles a rest as well as some advice.
“She just told us to make sure we were giving good passes to our hitters and that way our hitters could execute better,” Hoeffel said.
They were able to do just that when Henk finished off the Blue Devils with a spike.
After going into a stretch where they had lost four of six games, the Eagles have now won their past six games.
The key? It seems the Eagles have had better on court chemistry.
“It’s been the team chemistry,” Henk said. “We started off really strong and then we were mixing up lineups and then it was just re getting back into that team chemistry of who gets what ball and connecting hitters with setters. Now I think we got that down and ready to get into conference.”