Women’s volleyball is off to a winning start in the first full season since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Sitting at a 3-2 record coming off a 2-2 showing at the home invitational, hosted at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex this past weekend, the women’s volleyball team is almost halfway to the amount of wins it had in the 2019 season. A promising beginning for a team that was ranked fifth by Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) preseason polls.

After a busy weekend at home, the statistics are beginning to show just how the girls are contributing. Leah Henderson (junior, sports administration), starting setter, leads the team with 109 assists. Nicole Peterson (junior, sports administration), starting outside hitter, leads the team 57 kills across the five games.

But another big player emerged over the weekend: Bailey Flowerdew (sophomore, psychology). Flowerdew accumulated 66 digs and five aces across the weekend invitational and, as a sophomore, earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.

Coach Julie Torbett had nothing but good things to say about Flowerdew and her work ethic.

“Bailey […] did an amazing job this weekend,” Torbett said. “She is very coachable and makes adjustments. She has a great serve which helped us maintain control on the defensive end.”

It is certainly promising that the three main players on the roster so far all have at least another year to represent the Crimson Hawks.

Torbett was happy with the players’ performance during the multi-day tournament.

“I saw that the players never give up,” Torbett said. “They let teams go on runs but they make runs themselves and get us right back in it.”

That type of mental toughness is something Torbett emphasized in pre-season interviews, and it is encouraging to see the team manifest such teachings in its play.

Volleyball, unlike a lot of other sports, typically competes within the context of day or multi-day long invitationals. This can represent all sorts of challenges emotionally, logistically and mentally.

The IUP invitational and the upcoming Charleston invitational this weekend both task the Hawks with playing four games over the span of two days.

This type of format allows for a lot of downtime between matches. Torbett described the extended time in-between games in a positive light.

“The breaks are a great time to refuel and recover as well as reflect on our performance,” Torbett said.

Allowing the team to reflect upon its game from hours earlier keeps those learning opportunities fresh in players’ minds and can translate to quick on-the-court success.

Though, this does not mean she wants her team to dwell on missed opportunities or forget what is coming next.

“When we return to the court we need to move on and tackle the next task at hand or the next opponent,” Torbett said.

This “keep moving forward” philosophy may allow players the peace of taking it one step at a time, but that does not mean they can altogether forget about larger challenges ahead. Their final game during the invitational this weekend will be the host, Charleston, who comes into the event with a 3-1 record, sweeping matches in all their wins with their only loss coming from a close 3-2 match.

Torbett maintains confidence in her team when faced with talented opposition, especially as the season gets underway and the team hits its stride.

“Hopefully we will be more prepared having a few more matches under our belt,” Torbett said. “It is always important to finish strong in every set, match, tournament and season.”

The team plays in West Virginia at the University of Charleston Invitational this weekend, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Friday against the 1-3 Chowan University Hawks.

IUP will also face off against 0-1 Winston-Salem State Rams and the 2-2 Ohio Dominican Panthers.

IUP will wrap up the trip to Charleston with a head-to-head match against the 3-1 host Charleston Golden Eagles.

The Hawks will look to continue their winning ways this season and continually improve as each game passes.

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