Tough Road Set for Xavier Volleyball
Nov. 20, 2008
By Adam Kiefaber
CINCINNATI - Last year at this time, Xavier entered the Atlantic 10 Women's Volleyball Championship with a bye as the No. 2 seed.
Saint Louis, a team that beat XU a few weeks prior, won its opening-round match against George Washington, which set up a rematch with the Musketeers.
The Billikens began the semifinal match by winning the first two games, creating a rather large deficit for Xavier to overcome, but the XU women won the next three straight games, giving the Musketeers a shot to play Dayton in the conference finals.
Saint Louis head coach Anne Kordes admitted to Xavier head coach Floyd Deaton this season that the loss in last year's semifinals left a lasting impression on her team.
"She said that really put a mark on their team," Deaton said. "That really made them step back and say, `you can't take anything for granted, and you have to go play hard all the time.'"
This time around, Saint Louis (24-4, 13-0 in A-10) enters the tournament as the clear-cut favorite to win the conference title. The Billikens dominated conference play this season and did not lose a single match to an A-10 opponent.
For Xavier to get past Saint Louis and the other top teams in this year's conference tournament, the team will have to take nothing for granted and play hard the entire time.
Going in, the Musketeers (15-13, 8-5 in A-10) are a No. 4 seed and have to play No. 5 seed Temple (15-13, 6-7) on Friday, Nov. 21 at 9 p.m. in Saint Louis, Mo.
Both teams were expected to compete for a conference title this season, but both have struggled down the stretch. Xavier has lost five of its last six matches, while Temple has lost three of its last four.
The Owls feature one of the conference's best outside hitters in Yun Yi Zhang, who leads the A-10 in points and kills this season.
"If she is on, I don't care who it is, Saint Louis, Dayton, she is tough to stop," Deaton said. "We went to five [games] with them this year and beat them. They are very similar to us right now, they have struggled in the latter part of the year, so we will see."
If XU can get past Zhang and Temple, then they may have to face Saint Louis, who is currently ranked No. 21 in the Bison/American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top 25 Poll.
The Billikens are currently the No. 1 seed and will play the lowest seed that advances out of the quarterfinals. No. 3 seed George Washington (18-10, 9-4) faces No. 6 seed Fordham (18-15, 6-7) in the other quarterfinal match on Friday. It will start at 6:30 p.m. just prior to XU's match with Temple.
If Xavier can hold off the Owls, then they will play Saint Louis if GW wins or No. 2 seed Dayton (20-10, 11-2 in A-10) if Fordham wins. In the regular season, Xavier has lost to both Dayton and Saint Louis twice, each time losing in three straight sets.
"One thing we have to do is just keep coming at them and at this point we have nothing to lose," senior setter Jenn Welsh said. "Everybody has to play really well in order to beat them and I think it is something that we can definitely do, but we just have to take it upon ourselves to not make errors."
Even though XU is 0-4 against Dayton and Saint Louis this season, the team is confident that anything can happen come tournament time.
"I know we are going to play hard. If we are on, we're on and then we can play with anybody," Deaton said. "Even with a 15-13 record, they are still confident, if they play well they will have a chance."