Texas Tech volleyball is used to weaker teams playing up to the Red Raiders’ level.
Starting today, Tech may need to take a page out of their non-conference opponents’ books.
Tech (11-4) begins Big 12 Conference play at 6 p.m. today in United Spirit Arena against Kansas (12-2) in both teams’ conference opener.
“When the other team is better, obviously I think we play better,” middle blocker Aubree Piper said. “I don’t know why that is. It’s easy when a team’s not as good ... to play down, but when we play a team that is really good I think we play awesome, too.”
The Red Raiders are trying to avoid a mirror image of last year’s season, where they had a phenomenal non-conference season but only won a single conference game.
They also were swept in straight sets seven times in 14 Big 12 matches.
“The conference is as good as it’s been,” second year coach Don Flora said. “Last year was probably the best year in its history,”
Flora called the Big 12 a “different animal” from Tech’s non-conference schedule, but he believes the Red Raiders have played some of their best volleyball against the better teams they have seen this year.
One of the biggest differences between last year’s team and this year’s is the depth and insertion of newcomers to the rotation.
Piper said she believes the freshmen will continue to show improvement in conference play, and they’ve made the Red Raiders strides better.
The freshmen are still obviously learning, Flora said, and they are starting to realize where their role needs to be game in and game out.
“We’re still figuring it out with the babies,” Flora said of his nine true freshmen. “They’re going to have to listen to the upperclassmen and figure out how we go about it.”
Tech’s roster is still influx with conference play beginning. The Red Raiders got back preseason all-Big 12 selection Miara Cave — who posted a season high 16 kills in Wednesday’s loss at Nevada — but sophomore Breeann David is still about a week out from being back, Flora said
David leads the team with 2.78 kills per set, but she has only played in nine games this year.
The teams showed definite signs of missing her in the last week, dropping three matches in a row heading into today’s game.
Tech lost to Nevada in five sets Wednesday, committing a plethora of hitting errors and letting leads slip away midway through sets.
“I think we just didn’t play as well as we should throughout the entire game,” Cave said. “We took a couple of plays off when they were pivotal points in the match, and that allowed the other team to get in the game when we should have just buried them from the start.”
In Tech’s four losses, it has dropped eight of the 12 sets by four or less points.
Flora said his team needs to come out today ready for a close match and be able to take those close sets that can be decided by just a few points.
Cave echoed her coach’s sentiments, believing the team needs to try to play up to its potential in every match.
“We have to have that attitude that we’re Big 12,” she said, “and we need to come in and play like it’s our championship match and bury someone from the start.”
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