How would you describe the Drake volleyball team in a single word? One might say quick, agile or strong. The Bulldogs combine each of these in a single word.
“We’re definitely fighters,” said junior Whitney Westrum, who leads the team in kills this season. “We want to win.”
Last Saturday’s loss against Illinois State marked the midpoint of the 2011 season, and Missouri Valley Conference success is Drake’s target moving forward.
The Bulldogs, who are 6-12 overall and 2-3 in MVC play, hope to maintain energy, intensity and a powerful game plan as the season progresses.
“It’s a matter of raising our intensity level, really keeping it to that level, not allowing the other team to dictate tempo,” head coach Tony Sunga said. “It’s all the big digs, the things that should have hit the floor but didn’t because they were there. Those are the things that pick up a team.”
Honing in on weaknesses and further developing their strengths, the Bulldogs look to improve several facets of their game.
Drake recorded almost 25 fewer aces than its opponents during the first half of the season, a deficit the Bulldogs look to reverse in upcoming matches.
The Bulldogs also plan to take the lead early and maintain that advantage moving forward.
“We can’t allow them to come back,” Westrum said.
Allowing Illinois State to come back was an aspect of the game that proved particularly troublesome. Drake lost the match 3-0.
With matches against teams such as Northern Iowa, Bradley and Evansville looming, Drake’s goal is to be the best in the MVC, and the title is up for grabs, Westrum said.
“Anyone can win” Westrum said. “It’s anyone’s game.”
Westrum also said she is looking forward to playing MVC rivals for a second time this season.
“Seeing them the second time, you have a feel for how they play and for their tendencies,” she said.
It’s precisely that experience that has the Bulldogs excited and prepared to dominate play in the second half of the season. They hope to reverse their current losing record in conference play, gearing up for the State Farm MVC Tournament that is held Nov. 24-26.
The hometown crowd will also be integral to Drake’s goals for the latter half of the season. With a number of upcoming home games, the Bulldogs look to their fans for support and enthusiasm.
Beyond game day, Drake hopes to sport a winning work ethic in practice as the season continues.
“We play hard every day in practice, and I look forward to that, to stepping (up) in conference,” said senior setter Caitlin Johnson, who leads Drake in assists.
The Bulldogs take on Wichita State tomorrow in Wichita, Kan., followed by a game at Missouri State on Saturday.