Seattle Pacific University’s Women’s Volleyball team added seven new players to the team this fall, and head coach Abbie Wright’s biggest challenge was finding ways for them to practice together and get used to playing with one another.
The team has been together in small pods since September, and in full practice since January, and with an 8-5 record heading into last weekend, the team seems to be adjusting and bonding well.
“We have spent a lot of time together in the gym, but with a longer season, we have also gotten to spend more time outside of volleyball with each other,” sophomore setter Lindsey Lambert said. “I think it is also cool to have teammates who genuinely care about each other and it shows when we are playing that everyone is rooting for each other.”
The Falcons took on Western Oregon University this weekend, and before the matches, Wright said that Western Oregon was a powerful offensive team.
“They’ve always been an aggressive team, very aggressive, they serve really tough, they power through a block, they hit really hard, and they find ways to score by keeping the pressure on,” Wright said. “I think it’s a matter of who can put the ball on the court more, and then from there, control the ball better.”
Wright said the Falcons were looking to emphasize defense, and that’s exactly what they did, out-blocking the Wolves by a combined total of 25-15.
The Falcons rolled to victory in both contests, winning all but one set by more than eight points.
However, in the first match, the team had to come back in all three sets, but were able to do so, led by senior Maddie Batiste with ten kills and seven digs. Freshman Zoe Shuckhart had 14 digs, and Lambert had 22 assists and seven digs.
Through this season, Lambert has learned to step into her role as a leader, and it’s paying off for the team.
“With my position, people look to you to direct the court, so that has been something I have really tried to work on to get better for my teammates,” Lambert said.
It was the same story in match two, as the Falcons came back in nearly every set.
In this match, Lambert had 35 assists and nine digs. Returning from injury, junior Erin Gould had 11 kills, and so did redshirt freshman Maddie Pruden, who has reached double digit kills in nearly every match this year.
“It has been fun to have a bigger role on the team this year! I have enjoyed growing and learning how to become a better teammate,” Pruden said. “I learned a lot of valuable lessons while I was a redshirt last year, which has helped with my play this season.”
The wins against Western Oregon moved the Falcons record to 10-5 on the season. One of these wins came against tough competition in Western Washington University, as the Falcons beat them for the first time since 2013. Lambert had a career high 47 assists in the match, and Pruden had 12 kills.
“I was really proud of my team and what we were able to accomplish. WWU is a great team, so it was fun to compete against them. We were confident and worked together as a team to beat them,” Pruden said.
For the Falcons final three matches, they will get to play WWU three more times, giving them a chance to take the lead in the season series, which the Vikings lead 2-1.
“I think I’m always kind of forward looking, never satisfied but also very proud of them,” Wright said, happy to take on the Vikings again.
Through this season so far, Lambert has tried to remind herself to be positive in all situations.
“I have gained a lot from this shortened season, but especially how important it is to be positive throughout trying times. We were lucky to get any season at all this year, but my teammates and I remained positive and didn’t let the discouragement of the pandemic affect our play,” Lambert said.
Through everything they’ve been through, Wright has built a positive team culture not only for the players, but also for herself.
“This is the perfect team to go through this with,” Wright said. “It makes coming to work a joy and they’ve really brought, I think in what has been kind of a somber year in a lot of ways for me, just some real joy and some real encouragement.”