For Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) women’s volleyball and most of the fall sports, playoff season looms near.
At this point in the season, teams are expected to have kinks worked out. They are expected to be performing efficiently, consistently and dependably. Those are the things that make a playoff team.
The Hawks fell in their latest matchup against the California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) Vulcans on Saturday. This loss comes after their 3-0 victory over Slippery Rock on Friday. This has been the theme for the Hawks this season; they will win a game or two and then lose one.
In Friday’s victory over divisional rival Slippery Rock, IUP had a season-high .419 hitting percentage. It was IUP's second straight division win.
Gia Cannavino (senior, natural science/pre-physical therapy) had 13 kills on 30 attacks, hitting .333 against The Rock. Nicole Peterson (junior, sports administration) led the way with 16.5 points, totaling 12 kills with a .524 hitting percentage. Caroline Walsh (junior, food and nutrition) got in on the action as well and finished with 10 kills on a .450 hitting percentage and four total blocks. IUP dominated and won by scores of 25-10, 26-24 and 25-13.
This victory did not carry over into Saturday afternoon against the Vulcans.
The Hawks could not overcome Cal U despite Nicole Peterson’s 18 kills and 20 points.
IUP started strong in the first set edging out Cal U 25-23 and grabbing the lead. The Vulcans came back with a vengeance winning the next three sets 25-20, 25-14 and 26-24.
The Crimson Hawks fell to 11-10 overall with the loss and are now 2-4 in PSAC West play.
For the IUP women’s volleyball team with an 11-10 record, 2-4 in conference play, the playoffs are both the metaphorical carrot-on-a-stick and a possible looming let down.
The mantra of Torbett in the latter half of her season remains unchanged: play consistently, focus on one game at a time, adapt and overcome.
“We try not to look ahead. We can only control our team,” Torbett said. “With upsets happening each week around the league and an entire second half of PSAC to play, it is way too early to count us out or in.
“The bottom teams have been beating some of the top teams and no one is undefeated.”
Torbett has hope for her team, though. One player has consistently made progress as the season has gone on. That player is middle hitter Caroline Walsh (junior, nutrition and dietetics).
When asked about Walsh’s play, Torbett was quick and to the point.
“Caroline has been the most consistent player we have,” Torbett said. “She connects well with the setters and works hard.”
Perhaps this no-nonsense response is due in part to the proof in the pudding: Walsh has put up impressive numbers through 21 games.
Walsh has climbed the statistical positions of the Crimson Hawks roster as well as the PSAC in general.
The 6-foot anchor in the middle of the IUP team has displayed thus far in the season that she is not only the prototypical defensive all-star with a team-leading 61 blocks. She also contributes more than a typical middle hitter on the offensive side of the ball, placing third on the team in kills and ranking second in the division in kill percentage.
The consistency Torbett mentions is high praise. Torbett has revealed time and time again this season that being consistent is a large part of the nearly .500 record the Crimson Hawks have accumulated so far.
Remaining consistent, perhaps unintuitively, also means being able to adapt in the world of athletics.
Knowing how to diagnose a playstyle, or situation, and adapting to that on the fly and repeatedly, is a type of consistency that is hard to teach.
“I don't think we make in-game adjustments well,” Torbett said. “So, I end up making player changes which can cause us to lack in chemistry on the court. If the top players would make adjustments quicker in the match to counter the other team, then there would not be as much of a need for heavy substitutions.”
That ability to dissect and react begins during film sessions. Especially as IUP closes out the season, the depth of film on the local PSAC teams that the team will face has expanded, and soaking it all in may be the best bet for a team who has the physical ability but has struggled to manifest the best version of itself dependably on the court this season.
The Crimson Hawks continue the quest for consistency Tuesday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. They square off against a formidable Clarion Golden Eagles squad who will come to Indiana with a 12-6 record. The game begins at 7 p.m.