Pittsburgh, PA — It may sound cliche but Duquesne volleyball coach Steve Opperman is a firm believer in ensuring his team is prepared for conference play.
Sometimes a non-conference match loss is just as valuable as a win because of the information you pick up from it.
Opperman had a learning experience of sorts last year as it was his players who kept him calm and patient. Now that is being paid forward as it appears that a starting lineup is in place after a couple of weeks worth of combinations.
“It’s hard as a coach because you don’t want to lose, but we have to make sure we’re getting that right lineup,” Opperman said. “If you take a loss because you had to toy a little with your lineup and get kids going, that’s what you have to do. I thought we did a nice job of competing this weekend and if we continue to do those kinds of things when we get to A-10’s, we’ll really be going in the right direction.”
Though Duquesne has a 3-4 record heading into a Tuesday road match at Saint Francis and a trio of matches in Oregon over the weekend, Opperman is optimistic that his team’s best volleyball has yet to be seen.
Part of finding that ideal starting lineup came with removing senior Molly Davet from it. Davet had a great season last year but tore her ACL in the final regular season match of the year.
Davet is still very effective when it comes to keeping the ball off of the floor and now has amassed over 1,000 career digs but Opperman has stated that Davet is not 100%.
In Davet’s place has been sophomore Liz Wayne who has provided a different look that has helped both on offense and defense.
“Liz hasn’t swung a lot of balls there but I thought she did a really nice job this weekend,” said Opperman of the switch. “One thing that was hurting us was the block on the right side and now Liz brings a different presence to the floor with being a really solid blocker out there.”
As a whole, the Duquesne Invitational provided the host Dukes with four matches and ultimately a 3-1 weekend. Overall, Opperman was pleased with his team’s play though he certainly wishes Duquesne had a mulligan against Northern Kentucky.
In that match Duquesne had amassed plenty of momentum taking the second set and owning a healthy third set lead before a string of errors changed the entire match.
“We made mistakes against Northern Kentucky and I believe we should have won that match,” Opperman said. “We had more kills than our opponent and we made our attacking errors but also had reception errors. That kind of plagued us our first weekend, we gave away too many points instead of making them earn it.”
Just a day later, Duquesne had a similar situation against Robert Morris in the fourth and final match of the weekend.
Duquesne trailed Robert Morris by seven points in the second set but instead of panicking ended up coming back to win the set 25-22.
“We just chipped away and took it one point at a time,” said Opperman. “We learned a lot about ourselves and whatever hole we get into we can dig ourselves out one point at a time. We saw some really positive things.”
Just a set later, Duquesne made similar errors but again persevered winning in straight sets.
Opperman clearly understands that with the three victories this past weekend, all of which came in straight sets the right buttons are being pushed and for the 20-year Duquesne coach he hopes this upward trend will continue.
“Our team chemistry has started to gel,” said Opperman. “We’re starting to trust each other on the floor, still make some of our silly boneheaded errors, but today we saw some of those going away and as we keep progressing A-10’s is what matters and as we get closer we just need to make sure we’re fine tuning those.”