Photo: Joel Venzke
Drake’s volleyball team (3-18, 2-8 MVC) will host two conference rivals this weekend as it attempts to move up in the Missouri Valley Conference standings. This Friday, the team takes on Southern Illinois at 7 p.m., and on Saturday, it faces Evansville at 7 p.m.
“We have to be focused,” said head coach Tony Sunga. “This weekend is very important that we come out and win every rally, every point. Outcome doesn’t matter if you don’t take care of every step along the way.”
Evansville is in the seventh spot, one spot ahead of Drake in the standings, with a conference record of 3-8. Southern Illinois is in fourth place with a conference record of 7-4.
Drake would have to win at least one of these matchups if it wants to stay in contention to make the MVC tournament, which qualifies the top six teams.
“Where we are right now is trying to get in there with fifth or sixth place,” Sunga said. “Drake is in a good position. We are only one or two matches from that striking distance.”
Redshirt junior Sarah Madden earned MVC Defensive Player of the Week honors this week. Madden earned the award by setting the school record for digs in a match with 45 and leading the conference in digs per set with 5.56. Coach Sunga says it’s Madden’s work ethic that sets her apart.
“She works hard so she deserves it,” Sunga said. “She is not going to be that 6’1,” 6’ 2” girl hitting the ball. She is going to be the one that they are hitting at, and that is the glory in it.”
Freshman Cassie Effken also made conference news as she was listed in the “other notable performances” category for MVC Freshman of the Week. Effken lit up the scoreboard last week against Creighton with seven kills and added three digs, three solo blocks, one block assist and one service ace.
The Bulldogs will have to stop the hitting power of the Salukis. Senior Alysia Mayes boasts 298 kills with a hitting percentage of .396 on the season. Senior Laura Thole has 304 kills on the season with a .229 hitting percentage.
Emma Roberson, reigning MVC Freshman of the Week, will be the focus in the match against Evansville. Roberson registered 28 kills, four blocks and four digs last weekend.
Next weekend, Drake will take on top-seeded UNI in Cedar Falls on Nov. 2. The following day the team will face ninth-seeded Bradley.