West Virginia volleyball is back in Morgantown to host TCU in a back-to-back series at the WVU Coliseum on Thursday and Friday. The first match gets underway at 7 p.m. on Thursday and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
The Mountaineers (3-3) are sitting high after a massive two-match sweep on the road of No. 10 Kansas. Not only did the Mountaineers get both underdog wins in five hard-fought sets each, but it came on the heels of a home sweep by Kansas State which came in the same fashion.
“They want to make the NCAA Tournament, and they’re a fun group to coach, and they work hard in the gym,” said head coach Reed Sunahara. “I don’t think they let a lot of things bother them, whereas in the past, when we had lost, it would just kind of compound something not-so-good happening over and over again.”
Now, West Virginia is tasked with defeating TCU. The Horned Frogs (1-3) have struggled out of the gate so far this season, but are currently in a five-match streak over the Mountaineers.
The Horned Frogs will present a unique challenge for West Virginia. Sunahara says they run a faster offense than they’ve seen previously from TCU, which is a point of concern for his team.
“Our defense needs to step up, our blockers first and foremost because they’re the front line, and then after the ball passes the block, our back row defense has to step up,” he said. “Defense wins games and championships, so we’ve got to step that part up.”
That might not be a problem for his players on the court. West Virginia is third in the Big 12 with 2.15 blocks every set, and fourth with 14.33 digs. These numbers are boosted by strong play so far this year from libero Alexa Hasting, who is third in the Big 12 with 102 digs, and middle blocker Audrey Adams, who is tied for the conference lead with 27 blocks.
Sunahara wants to see a little more out of his team’s serving, which he says has been inconsistent — especially against Kansas. WVU put together 10 points off aces in the first match, with just 8 service errors. Those numbers almost flipped in the second contest, as they gave up 14 points due to errors while making up just 7 with aces.
“We’re trying to be a lot more aggressive serving, and if we can get them out of system, then hopefully that makes it a little easier on our defense,” Sunahara said.
West Virginia will also be looking for big games from newcomer outside hitter Natali Petrova, who leads the team in kills and points so far this season, as well as middle blocker Briana Lynch, who was named WVU’s student-athlete of the week for her performance against Kansas.
The first match between West Virginia and TCU starts Thursday at 7 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum on ESPNU, with the second match starting the next day at 6 p.m. on ESPN+.