By Jason Sibson
Head Coach Rose Shires has got the UNO volleyball team on the winning track at just the right time. The Mavericks have won five matches in a row, sweeping four of them.After a dismal 2-4 start to conference play, they have catapulted over South Dakota, Augustana and Minnesota State into second place, beating all three of them along the way. Two upset wins this weekend earned them a spot just outside the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top 25.
“I knew that as long as we kept pushing hard it would start to click,” said middle blocker Carlie Christensen following this weekend’s victories. “It just started to click a month ago. Practice has changed. Everything is changing.”
Now, in making their claim for a fourth-consecutive North Central Regional invite, the Mavericks just need to avoid a potential meltdown against the cellar-dwellers of the North Central Conference.
North Dakota (6-19) will host UNO tonight at 7 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. The Fighting Sioux started this win streak for UNO, getting swept by the Mavs at the Sapp Fieldhouse on October 13.
UND is winless in NCC play this year, winning just two games in eight conference matches. An upset by the Sioux at this stage of the season would be detrimental to UNO’s postseason chances.
UNO will then bus to St. Cloud, Minn., to end their regular season against the Huskies of St. Cloud State. The Huskies are 2-6 in conference play this year and haven’t beaten the Mavericks since 2004.
This weekend’s games will finish the careers of three Mavericks who have been vital to UNO’s recent successes. Christensen, right side hitter Nicole McLeod and setter Katie Agnew have been a part of 72 wins since becoming active in this roster in 2004. Shires says those wins can be directly attributed to these three athletes.
“These [seniors] demonstrate the work ethic we want and the competitive ethic we want on a day in and day out basis,” Shires said. “They are the people that drive the team.”
As for the postseason, the head coach likes her team’s chances.
“We feel like we’ve qualified for the tournament,” Shires said.
The first round is slated for Thursday, Nov. 8, at an undetermined location, and the participants will be announced Sunday following this weekend’s action.