Meadville Tribune

Sports

October 28, 2013

Gators show resiliency during up-and-down season

MEADVILLE — Although the Allegheny women’s volleyball team lost in straight sets to Wittenburg University and Case Western Reserve on Saturday, the Gators were out to prove more than the winning or losing.

“This weekend we played more emotional and we wanted to prove and show how much we love the game,” said Bailey Gawley, a freshman middle hitter for the volleyball team.

Gawley had two blocks and an assist against Wittenburg.

The Gators were competitive against No. 12 overall in Division III Wittenburg early and Case Western Reserve late in their respective matches. Allegheny held an 18-16 lead in the first game before dropping a 25-21 decision to the Tigers. In the third set against the Spartans, Allegheny outside hitter and defensive specialist Taylor Samuel gave the Gators a 17-15 lead with back-to-back serving aces.

Samuel understood the battle the Gators would have to face and she was mentally ready.

“Mental toughness comes down to six components,” Samuel said. “Continuing effort, self-discipline, focus on the present, don’t focus on the past, successful stress management and controlled thoughts.”

Despite their overall record of 8-17 and in-conference record of 1-6, the Gators still have an opportunity to reach the North Coast Athletic Conference playoffs. The NCAC invites the top eight teams in the conference to compete in the NCAC tournament. Allegheny holds one of the final spots in the NCAC at the moment.

The winner of the NCAC tournament receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.

Allegheny will travel to Wooster (8-20, 2-5 NCAC) today at 7 p.m. for its last in-conference game.

Allegheny head coach Bridget Sheehan knows a victory against the Fighting Scots won’t be a “walk in the park.”

“It’s a big match for us and we have to play it there (in Wooster),” said Sheehan.

The potential of postseason play for Allegheny is still alive. A win today would secure a spot in the tournament, where a loss coupled with wins from Ohio Weslayan and Dennison could knock the Gators out.

The importance of the game against Wooster today is not affecting the Gators. Their approach is clear.

“Every week you prepare for the team you play,” Sheehan said. “It depends on what their look is.”

Baylie Sheppard, sophomore outside hitter, led the Gators with 13 kills, 11 digs in six sets played during the weekend games. She looks to keep her play consistent and is approaching the game against Wooster the same as every game this season.

“You have to take it point by point and focus on healthy serves,” said Sheppard. “Force your opponent to make errors and execute, rather than rely on them to make mistakes.”

To Sheppard, to be successful on the court comes from attitude and preparation.

“We have to have high-energy intense practices and translate them into the games,” said Sheppard. “It’s all mental at your position”

Despite a win or a loss today, when the 2013 season concludes, Samuel has a positive outlook on the season.

“Although winning is great, I want people to think we put on a great performance to watch and as long as we played our best, that’s all that matters,” Samuel said.

After Wooster, Allegheny will conclude its regular season schedule at Carnegie Mellon University Saturday at 2 p.m.

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