Shot at redemption
The new season will officially start this weekend for Idaho volleyball when the Vandals host the Nike Idaho Invitational Friday and Saturday in the Memorial Gym.
Last year ended in heartbreak for the Vandals when they lost in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament to New Mexico State, despite having the No. 2 seed going in. After the long off-season, a senior-heavy squad will have a shot at redemption.
Senior hitter Alex Sele said this year’s five seniors are more than ready to get the season rolling.
“Our groups of seniors are so determined to do well this year,” Sele said. “We’re just excited to have a great season and finish out strong in our careers.”
The Vandals will play three matches during the weekend, starting with Pacific at 7 p.m. Friday. Idaho will then return to Memorial Gym Saturday to face Montana at 12:30 p.m. and rival Washington State University at 7 p.m.
The Vandals played Washington State multiple times in the spring, but Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said this will have a whole different feel.
“It’s hard to tell in the spring because some players are injured and you’re not playing with everybody,” Buchanan said. “Pacific and WSU, obviously they’re going to be extremely tough. Montana’s gotten better. All three of those matches are going to be ones where we can’t take a break. We have to go hard.”
Both Pacific and Washington State own sizeable all-time series leads over Idaho, and the Montana series is about even with Idaho possessing a one-game advantage. The Vandals lost to Pacific the last time the teams played in 2010, but beat both WSU and Montana in their last meetings.
Buchanan said this opening tournament will be a good test to see where the team is at.
“We’re going to have some challenging matches going through the preseason but we’re a lot better and it could be any match on any night,” Buchanan said. “That’s what makes it fun.”
For the players, the start of the season is a welcome sight after weeks of intra-squad scrimmages. Junior Allison Baker said the team is more than ready for the real thing.
“We’ve been scrimmaging a lot. We’re just ready to see some different competition,” Baker said.
For Idaho, this tournament is a rare chance to start the season at home. The Vandals haven’t hosted a preseason tournament since 2008.
With tournaments at home being so rare, Sele said it’s special.
“I haven’t been at a home tournament since I’ve been at Idaho, so I’m really excited that we’re hosting our first tournament here,” Sele said.
The Vandals will get their first taste of the road next week, traveling to California where they’ll face Cal Poly Thursday night.
Kevin Bingaman can be reached at email@example.com
Steven Devine | Argonaut
Senior Alex Sele spikes the ball during practice Wednesday in the Memorial Gym. The team will face Pacific at 7 p.m. Friday in the Memorial Gym.