SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Austin Peay State University’s volleyball team continues its season-opening 15-match road trip, Friday-Saturday, at the University Plaza Invitational hosted by Missouri State.
The Lady Govs will open with a 10 a.m., Friday game against No. 11-ranked Dayton (3-0) which downed 2011 national runner-up Illinois to start the season. A 5 p.m. matchup with UALR (2-1) will offer a rematch of last week’s contest in Memphis which UALR won in five sets. Saturday’s action begins with a 10 a.m. outing against Oral Roberts (2-1) before a 6 p.m. affair against host Missouri State (0-3).
Austin Peay (1-4) has battled early season inconsistency after opening the campaign with a victory against Memphis. The offense has struggled largely due to an uneven performance on defense and passing that has prevented any offensive rhythm. Those flaws were punctuated in Tuesday’s loss at Western Kentucky where the offense was held to season lows in kills (24) and attack percentage (.072).
“We’re just looking for them to play hard,” said Lady Govs head coach Taylor Mott. “I don’t believe we did that against Western Kentucky. We’re telling them to keep playing hard, keep working hard. Whatever happens is going to happen.”
One bright spot through the season’s first week has been the work of the Lady Govs middle blockers. Sophomore Hillary Plybon leads the team with 50 kills (2.78 kills per set) and a .404 attack percentage. Junior Lauren Henderson ranks third on the team with 36 kills (2.00 kills per set) but has a team-best 14 blocks (0.78 blocks per set).
“Our middles are just working really hard and that why I believe they are successful,” said Mott. “Normally your outside (hitters) are playing well because it’s easy to set the outside. That’s not the case for us. Even though we’re struggling to pass our middles are working hard and making things work. Hopefully, the rest of the team will see how hard they are working and pick up their effort.”
Dayton opened its season with the win against Illinois and followed it up with wins against then No. 7 Pepperdine and Ohio. Senior outside hitter Rachel Krabacher, the 2011 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, posted 17 kills against Illinois and led the team with 46 kills (4.18 kills per set) in the three matches.
UALR began its season with a four-set loss to Eastern Michigan before notching a five-set win against the Lady Govs and a three-set sweep of host Memphis. Sophomore outside hitter Edina Begic finished the weekend with a team-best 55 kills (4.58 kills per set), including 25 in the victory against Austin Peay.
Oral Roberts defeated San Jose State and Canisius at the Buffalo Invitational last weekend before losing a hard-fought five-set decision to host Buffalo. Senior outside hitter Tatum Fredeen came off the bench in all three matches but led the Golden Eagles with 34 kills (3.09 kills per set), including 18 in the loss to Buffalo.
Missouri State is winless after opening the season at the Oklahoma Nike Invitational, falling to host Oklahoma, Tulsa and Western Michigan. Junior outside hitter Christine McCartney had 42 kills (3.83 kills per set) but was limited to a .115 attack percentage against the strong field that included two teams receiving votes in the AVCA Division I preseason poll.
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