At the start of the season, head volleyball coach Julie Jenkins spoke about her hopes for the team to break through into the top 25 ranked NCAA Division III volleyball teams. Tiger volleyball is now ranked at no. 18 in the nation, and recently returned from the regular season Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference as champions.
“We’ve played all of these teams before and we’ve beaten them,” said Kirby Smith, junior outside hitter. “Going in we just need to have the mindset that we can do that again.”
On Saturday, the Trinity Tigers faced their first competitors of the weekend, the Centenary College of Louisiana Ladies. In the first set, the Tigers served up a great number of spectacular offensive plays, beating the Ladies 25-14. The Ladies regrouped weakly, scoring only 9 points to Trinity’s 25 in the second set. In the third and final set, Centenary managed a little momentum, but could not shake Trinity. The Tigers won 25-18, making the first match of the regular season championship a Tiger victory.
Later that day, the Tiger’s faced their strongest competition of the tournament, Colorado College. Their only set losses of the weekend were to the no. 8 ranked Colorado. Colorado began strong, but Trinity stayed with them throughout the first set, until the set was stalled at a score of 25-25. Colorado finally won 30-28. The second set also was also deadlocked throughout, and with a score tied 18-18, Trinity took a slight lead due to two kills. Unfortunately, after three TU attacking errors, the Colorado College Tigers won a close one, 25-22.
The third set saw a turnaround as Trinity took a small lead, winning the set 25-20. With a match score of 2-1 in Colorado’s favor, the fourth match started with seven straight points for the Tigers before Colorado got on the scoreboard. However, despite some pressure throughout the set, Colorado could not catch up to Trinity. Trinity won the fourth set 25-16. The final set saw strong performances from both side’s of the net in a contentious battle over SCAC domination. The Trinity Tigers took home the win, completing the match against No. 8 ranked Colorado College with a score of 3-2.
“It really took a lot of focus and fight from our team in order to come back and win,” said Sarah Mullens, sophomore defensive specialist. “I’m really proud of us.”
On Sunday, the Tigers faced two new opponents. Against the University of Dallas, Trinity secured the first set 25-18. The second set began with an excellent performance from Madeline McKay and the Tiger women, finishing with a score of 25-16. The third set saw Trinity emerge as the match’s victor, with a set score of 25-13.
In the first set in the championship match against Austin College, the Kangaroos held a brief lead, with a score of 5-4, before the Tigers took the lead. Eventually they succeeded in beating the Kangaroos with a score of 25-16. The second set saw Austin dig deeper. The set was neck and neck throughout until, with a score of 21-21, Trinity returned from a timeout to score the final four points and win the set 25-21. The final set was much like the first, close after the first few plays, with Trinity steadily building a comfortable lead, ultimately triumphing 25-16. SCAC champions at last, the team credited their hungry mindset.
“We have been talking in our team meetings about how we can improve our mental approach to the game,” said Jenkins earlier in the season.
Indeed, throughout each set, the Tigers kept their focus on a consistent basis. The mental side of volleyball was key in the Tiger’s victory.
“In the beginning of the season, we struggled with finishing and getting behind in games because we were so focused on the end result, so now we think of the game to 25 as five “˜mini games’ to five,” Mullens said. “Our mindset was to take the games one point at a time instead of looking ahead to the end result.”
Smith agreed concisely with Mullens.
“We always try to think about playing green,” Smith said. “being aggressive, not playing tentatively.”
This strategy played out for Trinity and hopefully their success will continue as they go into the Trinity National Invitational this weekend, confident and prepared.