Could the Vikings make a comeback in time for Horizon League Tournament?
The Cleveland State University volleyball team had a tough start to their season. They lost nine of their first 11 games, including a seven-game losing streak in mid-September. But the Vikings have begun to bounce back as they enter the month of October.
The Vikings were on a four game winning streak, defeating Robert Morris, Youngstown State, and Horizon League opponents IUPUI and Oakland, bringing their record to at 6-9. One of the contributing factors to Cleveland State’s recent string of wins has been their improved defense.
Junior Audrey McConihe leads the Vikings with 187 digs this season. McConihe believes the Vikings defense will continue to grow as they gain experience.
“Our defensive play has improved so much from the beginning of our preseason,” McConihe said. “Besides myself and Abby [Miller], everyone in the back row is new to our program this season. Adjusting to the program’s standard of ‘nothing hits the floor’ was demanding at first, but we set a goal and worked hard every day to achieve it.”
McConihe has been consistent for the Vikings defense, as she has three matches with 20 or more digs so far this season.
Cleveland State has also begun to get into a groove on offense. Junior Peyton Bloomer leads the team with 131 kills this season, and junior Chelsea Penfield follows behind with 89. The Vikings improved offense has helped them win games. Penfield believes that her team’s improvement starts at practice.
“We’ve seen a lot of improvement across the board with our offensive numbers,” Penfield said. “We’re focused on hitting shots in practice that we know at times we’ve struggled with in games, but overall, it’s very rewarding to see our growth transition from practice to the game.”
CSU and Milwaukee were tied for first in Horizon League play with both teams boasting a 4-0 record. Penfield knows that despite their undefeated league record, the Vikings still have plenty to prove.
“Every time we step on the court, we have to prove to ourselves and our opponents that we are a contender,” Penfield said. “The competition is only going to get tougher from here, but it’s exciting to see the team’s potential come together and work to be a competitor in every match.”
The team hit their first roadblock in Horizon League play, losing a tough match to Green Bay on Oct. 7. It was a close one the whole way through with the two teams trading blows on the final set until Green Bay ran away with it, taking down the Vikings 15-9 to hand them their first Horizon League loss of the season.
The Vikings ended their home stand getting taken down by the Horizon League-leading Milwaukee Panthers 3-0 and University of Illinois Chicago 3-1. While the defense did its best to hold the line, the offense struggled throughout to match to rally get much going against such a dominant team. Despite the loss, sophomore Abby Miller has something to celebrate- her 1,000th career assist.
The team hopes to recover from their six game losing streak after falling to Purdue Fort Wayne, Wright State, and Northern Kentucky on the road. This weekend, the Vikings will host Youngstown State on Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. and Robert Morris on Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. in the Woodling Gymnasium at home hoping to secure a pair of wins against the lower ranked conference teams.