Volleyball bounces back strong after opening season with 3 straight losses

Chelsea Moore recorded 70 digs in four games over the weekend.

Buffalo State Sports Information

Chelsea Moore recorded 70 digs in four games over the weekend.

The Buffalo State volleyball team sat down in a circle in the hallway to talk.

They had just lost their first three matches of the season, two in straight sets, the other, 3-1. They knew something had to change before the final game of the weekend, against Pitt-Bradford, or else they were in danger of leaving the Cortland Red Dragon Classic with an 0-4 record to start the season.

The subject of their conversation? Having fun.

“We knew Pitt-Bradford wasn’t as strong as the three teams we just played,” sophomore outside hitter Hannah Renaldo said. “So we wanted to just have fun and play for each other. That’s our mentality when we’re out there on the court. We’re here to play for each other and have fun.”

The talk appeared to have made a difference, as the Bengals beat Pitt-Bradford, 25-10, 25-16, 19-25 and 25-15, to salvage the season-opening tournament.

“We knew it was not an option to come out of the tournament 0-4,” Renaldo said. “The first three (matches) when we were getting beat, we just had no emotion. It was hard to play, and hard to watch because it was so dead. But we just had a lot of fun playing that last game, and we wanted to win really bad.”

Buffalo State opened the tournament on Friday with a loss to No. 11 Mount Union in straight sets, 17-25, 11-25 and 13-25, and followed that effort later in the day with another loss in straight sets to Richard Stockton, 14-26, 10-25 and 21-25. On Saturday, the Bengals lost to No. 23 Clarkson, 25-17, 20-25, 14-25 and 12-25, before rebounding with the win against Pitt-Bradford.

With almost every key player from last season’s 26-win team returning, the Bengals came to Cortland expecting success. But they couldn’t find it against ranked teams like Mount Union and Clarkson and even Richard Stockton, which received votes in the national poll.

Head coach Maria DePeters said the loss to Mount Union was especially jarring for her team.

“It seemed like they were just really brought down by the loss against Mount Union,” DePeters said. “They thought they were going to pick up right where they (left off) last year. But every year is a new year. Because the girls came off a good season, they have to work even harder than they did last year.”

“We have a target on our back now,” DePeters added. “I think they really didn’t consider that coming into this first tournament.”

Mount Union made it clear in the opening match that Buffalo State wasn’t the only talented team in Cortland, using the size of their hitters to overpower the Bengals and put the ball away with ease.

“Our first and second game against Mount Union, we were taken aback, and we knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride,” Renaldo said. “We knew going into the tournament that we were going to do good — or, we thought we were going to do good. I don’t think we were too overconfident, we just expected a lot more of ourselves than what happened.”

Despite the poor record, DePeters said her team did put together some good rallies in the three losses, and, she said, her team played strong on defense throughout the tournament. But she was most impressed by the team’s ability to work through the earlier losses and win the final game of the weekend.

“It’s a learning experience,” DePeters said. “If you’re going to lose, you’d rather lose at the beginning of the season than the end.”

Junior outside hitter Sam Parente also said the Cortland Tournament was a learning experience. But now that the tournament is over, it’s up to her and the rest of the Bengals to use what they learned and make the necessary improvements.

“We definitely played hard teams, and now we need to figure out what happened and what we need to do as a team to improve,” Parente said. “I think going 1-3 definitely has an impact. We’re just going to work that much harder in practice.”

Leif Reigstad can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @LeifReigstad.