UTA volleyball learns from season’s challenges and victories

Sophomore setter Kylee Kapp sets the ball during a game Nov. 10 against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock at College Park Center. Kapp finished the game with 15 assists and four digs. 

UTA volleyball’s regular season is all but wrapped up, with just a single match against Texas State University left to play on Friday.

The Mavericks have an overall record of 16-11 and are 8-7 in Sun Belt Conference play. They clinched a spot at the Sun Belt Volleyball Championship tournament with a win over the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Sunday.

It’s been an up-and-down year for the Mavericks. Head coach J.T. Wenger said matches that should have been won were dropped and wins were grasped from unlikely opponents. That’s the nature of college volleyball, he said, and momentum can swing in any direction.

“The best teams learn how to ride the highs without having the lows sinking too far,” Wenger said. “It’s something we’ve improved upon as the year has gone on.”

UTA started its campaign with an 8-4 record in non-conference play, giving Wenger his best start during his three-year tenure as head coach.

However, the Mavericks started conference play with six losses in 10 matches. At one point, UTA’s losing streak saw them in position to miss out on the conference tournament, junior libero Madelyn St. Germain said.

Senior middle blocker Madison Hill said that moment became a reality check for the team.

St. Germain said the Mavericks finished the final weeks of the regular season determined after earlier mishaps set them back. The entire season has been a lesson for the team, she said.

“We walked into [the season] thinking we were going to be really good,” St. Germain said. “But I think after every loss, we learned something from it.”

Hill said each of the seniors has different personalities and attributes that help them teach underclassmen what to do in times of trouble. UTA’s focus during matches when things don’t go the team’s way has been a talking point, Hill said.

The team’s new approach to games is to “make it personal” against opponents by getting into their heads and playing mind games by calling out rival players during the match, Hill said.

October road wins against Appalachian State University and Coastal Carolina University helped UTA swing momentum back in its favor. Currently, the Mavericks have won five of six matches and are third in the Sun Belt’s West Division.

In Sun Belt play, UTA has the third-most kills and holds the league’s fourth-best hitting percentage. UTA also has three players leading key stat lines. Senior middle blocker Madison Hill has a league-leading hitting percentage of 0.385%, tallying 182 kills.

St. Germain has 313 digs and averages 5.49 digs-per-set, both league highs. She said after some shaky defensive performances, everyone figured out their role and range to help solidify UTA’s play.

Sophomore middle blocker Bre Walp leads the way with 63 blocks this season and averages a league-leading 1.19 blocks-per-set.

Wenger said UTA has improved how it has managed matches. With the Mavericks ranking in the top-four in nearly every team statistic, it shows they are playing solid volleyball in most areas.

As the regular season comes to a close, players must take pride in their craft and adapt to the challenges this season has brought them, he said.

“There’s that point, that crux, of every season where you realize, ‘OK, this is where we’ve been, this is where we want to go, and it’s time to make some mid-season adjustments’,” Wenger said. “Sometimes it’s strategic, sometimes it’s just cerebral.”



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