Brock women’s volleyball began their 2016-17 season this past weekend with back to back games against the Lakehead Thunderwolves. The season began on Friday, after a preseason that saw the Badgers finished with a 4-6 record. Head coach Dale Melnick, entering her sixth season in charge of the program, was hoping to lead the Badgers to a early season victory to give them the confidence to bounce back from a rough season last year.
The Bob Davis Gymnasium was packed with Brock fans for the Badgers home opener on Friday, and the atmosphere seemed to put pressure on the team in the first two sets. Brock looked nervous, and were not playing up to their potential. Lakehead would win the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-17, putting the Badgers on their heels in the best of five match up.
“There was no question we were extremely nervous. [That] was probably the most fans that we’ve ever seen at a volleyball match,” Melnick said. “So we we’re a little slow out of the gate, and made a lot of untimely errors,”.
But the early deficit didn’t mean the Badgers would throw in the towel, especially in front of such a large crowd. The team fought hard, and they managed to win the third set 25-20. Rookie Julia Balatbat and Tori Carroll played outstanding in the third set. The quick win in set number three was enough to prove to the Badgers that they had what it takes to win the final two sets.
Brock dominated the last two sets thanks to powerful kills from Maddie Brown and great setting by Hannah Davenhill. After picking up the fourth set win 25-20, the Badgers were down 10-8 in the fifth set. However, Alanna Norris showed what she can do with her serves, leading the Badgers to seven consecutive points and the 15-10 victory.
Brock improved to 1-0 on the year. Davenhill had 25 assists, setting up Brown and Carr for the majority of the night. They had nine and seven kills respectively.
Coming into Saturday, the Badgers and Thunderwolves would play their second game of the weekend, playing on back to back nights because of travel distance. After a huge comeback the previous night, it had to be assumed the Badgers would have the edge in confidence coming in. However, it was Lakehead that seemed confident from the get go, capitalizing on some key Badger errors, and finishing off some devastating kills. The Thunderwolves would take the first set 25-16. Following the game, Melnick explained that she was not impressed with her team’s play after the first set.
“I said to them, I’m a little frustrated right now, and they looked at me and said we are too,” Melnick said.
She went on to tell her team that they needed to make every ball one per cent better, and it clearly worked. Her rationale was that instead of trying to make every ball a perfect pass or a perfect hit, just try and make it a little better than the last one.
The team responded and completely dominated the Thunderwolves in the second set. After Lakehead started off the set with a 3-1 lead, the Badgers rallied for nine straight points giving them a 10-3 lead. That seemed to be the turning point of the entire night as Lakehead looked to be on their heels for the majority of the remaining sets. They made a lot of errors that gave the Badgers easy points. Abby Jenkins had a couple of devastating kills in the second set, helping her team to a 25-11 win.
In the third set, the Badgers got out to a 8-3 lead before Lakehead would battle back and make it 9-7. The Thunderwolves then had trouble getting the ball over the net, giving Brock some easy points. Norris had another impressive run of serves, and Brock would win the third set 25-19.
Just one set away from their second victory of the season and a clean sweep of the Thunderwolves, the Badgers made sure to make no mistakes. They got things started fast, jumping out to a 5-0 lead. Fifth year Libero, Karlinna O’Leary, played phenomenal, and the Badgers seemed to have no trouble handling Lakehead. They would win the fourth set 25-12, as Brock picked up the three sets to one victory, and improved to 2-0 on the season. After losing the first set, the Badgers never trailed the rest of the night as they went on a nine point run to give themselves an early lead in the second set. Jenkins registered 12 kills, and Renee Helmer was also key to the victory adding seven kills. Rookie setter Emily Armstrong was outstanding, picking up five aces with strong serving and 24 assists.
Just two games into the season, the Badgers have already matched their win total from last year. The team looks to be much more confident this year, and they hope that a hot start can help them for the remainder of the season.
The Badgers will travel to Trent for their next match. The match takes place at 6:00 p.m. on November 11.