There has been a lot of talk about SMU football this year without a lot of mention of SMU volleyball. That should change.
On Friday, the volleyball team opens conference play at Houston, and all signs are pointing toward a deep postseason run after being snubbed out of the NCAA tournament last year.
To say that the program is back with a vengeance would be an understatement. Determined not to be left out again this year, Coach Lisa Seifert put together one of the hardest non-conference schedules that she could.
The Mustangs opened the season with a 3-1 win over UTEP, but were stopped in their tracks at home against nationally ranked Arizona, losing 3-1 in a very close match. However, they quickly bounced back and dominated Texas State 3-0 to finish their first weekend with an overall record of 2-1.
What did opening weekend tell us?
Coach Seifert was right. Two months ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with her and discuss the disappointments of last season and her expectations for this season. She made it very clear that despite the heartbreaking end to the 2014 season, the team was returning to the court resolved and determined. That is exactly what I saw in their opening week.
Avery Acker spent the summer training with the U.S. Olympic team, and did it show. Although the ladies lost 3-1 to Arizona, they held a late lead during the third set, and looked poised to take a 2-1 lead, and despite what appeared to be a mental collapse, the Mustangs still looked impressive.
The Mustangs have already taken home two tournament trophies in non-conference play. In the month of September, they beat Cal State Fullerton, Santa Clara, and host-school New Mexico to win the Lobo Classic, and in Moody Coliseum, they took home the title in the SMU Doubletree Invitational after defeating Clemson, TCU, and UT-San Antonio.
They currently are 10-2, with their only loses to Arizona and UCLA.
Takeaways so far
Avery Acker can put the ball anywhere she wants to.
Morgan Heise is the most energetic person you will ever meet. She will out hustle you anywhere, probably even to class. Her level of energy even got me excited at times.
Lauren Mills is nothing short of lethal with her kills, she has great power and vision and knows exactly where to hit the ball.
Overall the ‘Stangs communication and intensity showed. It is obvious in their playing style that what they lack in size, they make up in volleyball IQ, experience, and energy.
There isn’t a whole lot to predict at this moment, but I don’t see anyone outdueling them for the conference crown. With a record of 10-2, the Mustangs have three wins over top 50 teams, San Diego, TCU, and Santa Clara. It should also be noted that this is the second best start in program history.
Injuries and mental breakdowns hurt the ‘Stangs in conference play last season, but with an experienced team Coach Seifert is confident that those are issues of the past.
“They are definitely motivated, they learned a huge lesson last season – in case someone gets hurt or we find ourselves in that situation again they will know what to do.” Seifert said.
After opening conference play at Houston, the Mustangs will travel to Tulane, then return home for four straight matches. Check out their first conference home game against Tulsa on September 30, at 6:oo pm at Moody Coliseum.
Avery Acker and Morgan Heise swept the American Athletic Conference awards this week. Acker received offensive player of the week and Heise was awarded defensive player of the week. The award is the second of the season for both players.
Additionally, Acker received MVP of the Double Tree invitational tournament where SMU went 3-0. Acker was also voted Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. She is the first SMU player and American Athletic Conference athlete to receive that honor. Acker currently ranks second in the country with an 12.20 assist average.