With five matches left in the regular season, Drake controls its own destiny.
The top six teams in the Missouri Valley Conference advance to the State Farm MVC Championship, and the Bulldogs (21-7, 6-7) are holding onto fifth place.
“That’s the goal right now; to make the MVC tournament and go further than last year,” Drake Head Coach Phil McDaniel said. “We certainly have some tough games ahead.”
Last year, the Bulldogs earned their first-ever MVC tournament berth as the fourth seed, but were eliminated at the hands of a first-round sweep by Creighton.
This season, Drake got off to the best start in school history. On the backs of 10 juniors and seniors, the Bulldogs stormed to a 14-0 start.
“Having six seniors and an upperclassmen-heavy team, the work ethic is passed down to the younger players,” McDaniel said. Senior Angela Bys has led the way, collecting team highs in kills, service aces and solo blocks. Her 356 kills is good for fourth in the Valley.
Senior libero Alana Wittenburg leads the conference with 626 digs.
Since the start of conference play, the Bulldogs have struggled to maintain their early season form. The team has seesawed through its schedule, but it has never been outmatched. In a sport which decides matches in best of five sets, Drake has played the minimum three sets just twice against Valley opponents.
The season’s 14-0 start is symbolic of Drake’s climb out of obscurity. The team experienced its first-ever winning season and MVC tournament in 2009, and now the stage is set for an even better finish in 2010.
“The program has a come a long way,” McDaniel said. “The biggest piece was getting the girls to believe in themselves.”