The preseason is now over for the ladies of the Panther Volleyball team and they remain at .500 after last weekend’s results at the Active Ankle Challenge held in West Lafayette, Indiana at the University of Purdue.
The Panthers would open the Challenge with a solid win over Northern Kentucky in four sets. With team-leading marks of 15 kills and 14 digs by redshirt Junior Ksenia Sukhareva, who registered her fourth double-double of the season and third in as many games. Senior Kimberly Smith posted 12 kills and added a team-high and season-best eight blocks, while Junior Silvia Carli chipped in with six blocks.
FIU would then go on to a two set lead over Syracuse in their second game of the Challenge to only show why there is still some kinks to be figured out on this team before they can reach their full potential.
“We played at a really high level, but made untimely mistakes this weekend and we should have closed against Syracuse. We won the first two sets pretty convincingly, but we just got too comfortable, which led to careless mistakes and it started a snowball effect over the course of the weekend which we weren’t able to recover from,“ Carli said.
The Panther’s were unable to win another set for the rest of the weekend, including their loss to the tournament host, Purdue, in straight sets on the final day of the Challenge.
The biggest problem with this team isn’t a lack of skill, or even lack of depth like it was last year; it is their ability to stay focused once they have taken the lead. This team still doesn’t have that killer’s mentality that you see in every great player or team. When great teams or players take the lead and there is chance to close out a game, they do whatever it takes to put away the match and that is something the Panther’s still need to work on.
“It’s something that we are really working on with this team, to get them to focus for a longer time. For whatever reason when we take the lead, we lose all our focus and when we’re evenly matched with these teams, we end up taking to five sets, if they have just a little more focus than us we end up on the losing side,” Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett said.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding this team again this year and it’s going to be up to the leaders on the squad to rally the team together to attack Conference USA as the regular season begins this week.
“I expect more now that I know the level we can play at. I expect more from everyone each and every time we play; even though we’re playing at a high, level we can and should do better,” Senior Jessica Mendoza said.
FIU will now head into conference play starting off the gauntlet of top caliber play against the Charlotte 49ers Sept. 27. First serve is set for 6 p.m. on Lime Court at U.S. Century Bank Arena.