On the rise
Strong conference play helps Vandals make way to top of WAC
The Vandal volleyball team is about halfway through its conference schedule and is tied for third place in the conference standings, just a game behind the top two teams. The Vandals are 7-10 overall and 5-2 in WAC play.
This is a team that came into the season with high expectations, which they are starting to meet as Idaho is now on a four-match win streak.
However, it wasn’t all glory for Idaho this season. The Vandals went into conference play with a 2-8 record.
The Vandals have had some solid offensive outings this season, but have also had some poor showings. Inconsistency has been a major problem for Idaho offensively. The Vandals rank fourth in the WAC in hitting percentage and assists and rank sixth in kills. Those numbers aren’t bad, but with a team as experienced as Idaho, those numbers should be a bit higher.
Junior outside hitter Allison (Walker) Baker is once again the offensive firepower for Idaho. She leads the WAC with 4.48 kills-per-set, but has not sported a high hitting percentage this year.
Overall the Vandal offense is solid, but hasn’t lived up to its potential yet.
The Vandals have traditionally been a solid defensive team
and are again this year, but they have had a few lapses. Idaho ranks fourth in the conference in blocks, fifth in digs, but is last in opponents’ hitting percentage, allowing opponents to hit .231. Some of those numbers reflect the fact that Idaho has played some of the best teams in the nation this season.
Like the offensive side of things, the Vandals have been good, but not as good as they could be. They’ll have sets where they hold their opponents to a low hitting percentage, but the next set they’ll let their opponent have their way. On the bright side for Idaho, senior libero Janelle Chow ranks second in the WAC in digs with 4.06 a set.
The defense is passable, but will need to improve if Idaho is going to finish atop the WAC with teams like New Mexico State and Utah State.
The reigning WAC Coach of the Year Debbie Buchanan once again has Idaho near the top of the conference. Last year the Vandals finished the season second place in the WAC and are poised to have another high finish this year.
Buchanan has continued to make adjustments all season to help this team succeed. She’s switched setters, depending on the situation. She’s switched formations and she’s played the hot hand, regardless of whether it’s a senior or a freshman. Buchanan is Idaho’s winningest coach and is the longest sitting coach in the WAC right now with good reason.
This is a solid and experienced team, but it could be better. Inconsistancy is the biggest problem with the team right now, but it appears the Vandals are starting to get things figured out. If Idaho can keep this momentum going into the second half of the season, the Vandals will be in a great position to win the WAC. They just have to keep focus and not let down.
Idaho travels south to meet Texas-Arlington in Arlington on Thursday, followed up by a trip to Ruston, Louisiana, where they’ll face La. Tech.
Kevin Bingaman can be reached at email@example.com