Sept. 3, 2009
Baltimore - Maryland volleyball bragging rights are at stake this weekend in the Battle of Baltimore, and the Greyhounds (0-4) are looking to make a rightful claim.
But a battle is exactly what this weekend is shaping up to be. Loyola faces two tough opponents in Morgan State (2-3) and Towson (2-2) early in the weekend in Annapolis, before traveling up York Road to take on Navy (1-2) and a Maryland (2-1) team that head coach Scott Pennewill is predicting to be the weekend's biggest challenge.
"I think we're pretty excited about playing locally. We'd like to knock off a Towson to say `at least here in Baltimore we've got one up.'" Pennewill said. "We've got several matches that when you look at them, they might be very much in question. We're going to finish against a very tough Maryland team where they're all six-foot and over."
Last weekend in Pittsburgh, at the Duquesne/Robert Morris Invitational, Bowling Green rolled out a lineup that Pennewill feels is similar to the Terps'. The team was defeated in three tight sets but Pennewill liked how the team responded.
"It's going to be fun to see if we can get back into that Bowling Green mentality," Pennewill said. "They were big and powerful, and we hung. We had a chance in that third set to pull it out."
With the bad comes the good, and despite being swept in Pittsburgh, Pennewill found potential. Freshman setter Aubrey Kirven had 117 assists, 33 digs, four blocks and nine kills. Junior Nina Camaioni notched 53 kills and 47 digs. Karlee Woodward came off the bench to chip in 11 blocks and 26 kills and freshmen hitters Katie Dircks, Taylor Koncelik and Janet Pressler combined for 59 kills.
However, big numbers may look good on paper but the key to utilizing those big numbers is consistency.
"Any time you have a youthful team, consistency will be at the top of that list," Pennewill said.
Consistency will start with Kirven and the offense this weekend.
Kirven's play last weekend made it was easy to forget the fact that she is a freshman. She blocked, she passed and went above and beyond what her position calls for.
"She's a stud," Pennewill said. "Most setters when they're young really don't learn what it means to run an offense. They distribute. Setters coming into college aren't required to play a whole lot of defense. You get (to Loyola) and you've got to. There's a whole adjustment. It's a full plate."
Pennewill said he saw maybe "a handful" of times when Kirven looked somewhat overwhelmed, but also added that there was never a time when she failed to bounce back.
"I can pretty much say every time we called a time out and put a play into place, she runs it and scores with it,"
Kirven now must figure out how to run a consistent offense with the opposing team's defense blocking Camaioni's every move. The responsibility falls on the front line as a group to hit consistently with the team's biggest weapon being constantly blocked.
"There's no doubt when you look at us, Nina does a lion's share of the swings," Pennewill said. "In the past, we ran a lot of Nina out of the back row off a combination on the front. Teams now see that and are going to key in on that. Now we've got to get the front end to produce so (the blockers) can't just sit on her."
The other intangible Pennewill is looking for is momentum. That aspect, he hopes, will start at 10:30 a.m. with serve and pass.
"We talk a lot about `Mo', you've got to have `Mo' on your team," Pennewill said. "Momentum is serving strong and siding out. I think if we don't start off fast it will be difficult to have momentum."
The Battle of Baltimore starts Friday at 12 p.m. with the Greyhounds taking on Morgan State, followed by a 7 p.m. contest against Towson, in Annapolis. On Saturday, Loyola faces Navy at 12:30 p.m. and caps the weekend off with Maryland at 5:00 p.m. in Towson.