Around the Big East: Volleyball in mix for Tournament berth

Photo via Seton Hall Athletics

Abby Thelen (left), Maggie Cvelbar (center), and Haylee Gasser (right) prepare before a serve in Walsh Gynasium. Photo via Seton Hall Athletics.

The 2016 volleyball regular season is in the home stretch, and the race for a berth in the Big East Tournament is as competitive as it gets. Only the top four teams in the conference will receive a spot in the Big East Tournament, which is to be held at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Nov. 25 and 26.

The Pirates are one of six teams vying for the final two spots in the conference standings, with reigning champions Creighton, as well as Marquette, looking like they will lock down the first and second spots, respectively. The Pirates have nine games left on their regular season slate, one against every other Big East squad.

Here’s what the Pirates need to do down the stretch to ensure that they will be heading to Indianapolis to compete for a Big East title:

The major thing this team will need to find consistency in the closing sets. At times, this team has looked like one of the best in the conference. At other times, this team has looked overmatched and unable to answer the challenge. They have had a hard time maintaining long stretches of winning volleyball. Their longest of the season, which was five, was followed by losses in four of their next five matches.

The Hall began conference play with a 3-1 record, but have proceeded to lose four of their last five matches to drop to 4-5 in Big East play. Coach Allison Yaeger’s squad has shown their capability to play strong volleyball, but they must keep up the positive play over each of their final nine games if they want a chance at a Big East title.

Over the final nine games of the regular season, five of them will be on the Pirates’ home floor inside Walsh Gymnasium. Included in that stretch of games is a four-game home stand against Creighton, Providence, Georgetown and Villanova. Taking advantage of this stretch of four straight home games is crucial for the Pirates if they wish to move up in the standings.

Creighton presents the greatest challenge for the Pirates, as the team is currently holding the top spot in the Big East with an 8-0 conference record. The young Pirates attack will be asked to step up in a big way in a match that will likely be their most important contest of the season.

Providence and Georgetown are two of the three teams below the Pirates in the Big East standings. These matches, along with the final home match of the year against St. John’s – the third team beneath the Pirates in the standings – are all matches that the Pirates should be expected to win.

Then there’s Villanova, one of the six teams competing for the third and fourth spots in the Big East. This one will be huge for the Pirates, as they will get a chance to boost their record and cause a setback for one of their biggest competitors.

We know about their youth. We know about the success they have had early on in their careers at Seton Hall. Now it’s time for this young Pirates team to step up when it matters most, build momentum to finish sets strong and claim one of the four spots in the Big East Tournament. They have the talent, it all just comes down to one thing: consistency.
Matt Ambrose is a journalism major from Exeter, N.H. He can be reached at matthew.ambrose1@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @mambrose97.

Author: Matt Ambrose

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