Sideout: Whitman volleyball team struggles

Tyler Hurlburt

Photo Credit: David Jacobson

After starting the season off right with strong performances at the Sept. 4-5 Whitman Invitational where they went 2-2, earning themselves a second place finish in the process, the Whitman volleyball team has suffered a series of tough losses, falling to the bottom of the conference.

They won the first match of the invite in a tight five-game match against the then 25th ranked nationally University of Puget Sound Loggers. At the same tournament, the volleyball team beat Menlo College and lost twice to Pacific Lutheran University, ranked 17th nationally at the time, one of these losses coming in the championship match.

For a team comprised of only five first-years and six sophomores, five of whom played last year, this was a great start to the season. Sophomore Corie Brewer felt that this early tournament “proved what we’re capable of.”

Photo Credit: David Jacobson

Following this initial success, the Missionaries lost nine of their next ten games, dropping to a 3-11 overall record and 0-6 in conference play. Their recent loss to Pacific University on Oct. 2 dropped them down to last place in the Northwest Conference.

A similar trend can be seen in several of the team’s matches.   They will play very well at the beginning of the match, winning the first game, but then proceed to lose the next three games and the match. This manner of losing is particularly frustrating for the team because it shows that they have the abilities to play well together, but they end up falling apart.

Some on the team see this habit as a problem with their mental game. Sophomore Olivia Nielson referred to their trend in how they play as a “snowball effect,” where the team will make one small mistake and while they are mentally caught up in this error, they make another mistake, digging themselves into a hole until they get too far behind to catch up.

The team’s youth is also playing a large role in the their performance thus far. Since there are no seniors or juniors on the team, players have at most played for one year together, many for only a month and a half.