As the Omaha volleyball team enters their Thursday night home match against South Dakota, there’s something on their backs besides the Omaha name and a number — a target. The Mavericks are currently riding a six-game win streak and sit atop the Summit League standings at 6-0. With 12 conference matches left on the schedule, Omaha is the team to beat so far.
“It’s where you want to be, but it’s about what you do when you get there,” said Omaha head coach Matt Buttermore. “There’s a great Tom Brady quote, and I’m paraphrasing this, but ‘once you think you’ve got it figured out, that’s when it gets you’ — It’s true in any sport.”
Buttermore hopes it doesn’t ‘get him’ or his program any time soon as his group of ladies is rolling early on. The Mavericks have started the season with a perfect conference record and have swept four of those six matches. They’re also 4-0 at home this season and are coming off a pair of big road wins at North Dakota and North Dakota State.
However, there was a little bit of a learning experience to overcome that’s actually helped them get to this point.
Omaha finished the preseason at 3-7, but that record was far from a reflection of their play on the court due, especially considering their strength of schedule. The Mavericks’ response through six conference games doesn’t completely surprise the head coach.
“We worked hard over the summer on chemistry and we’ve got a dedicated group that works hard, so it continues to be important to them and they continue to get better,” Buttermore said.
The same things hold true now that held true in August and throughout the preseason for this Omaha team. Buttermore said even with how strong of a start they’ve had in conference play, there’s still work to be done. He’s put an emphasis on continuing to improve daily and keeping the focus concentrated on small details. As he said himself, it’s a race to improve between matches throughout the conference season.
Going back to that slow start record-wise during the preseason though, is arguably the biggest factor in the Mavericks’ recent success. Buttermore said there are dangers in losing that many games and it’d be easy to get down, but that tough schedule can also build confidence and belief just as easily, especially from a mental aspect. Playing that tougher competition has and will continue to pay off in the Summit League.
“You should learn when you win too, but sometimes it’s a lot easier to learn when you get beat up a little bit,” Buttermore said. “We never came apart and that was my big worry with the schedule. If we did go one (and nine), two (and eight) or three (and seven), what was it going to do to the team chemistry? The girls hung together really well and I think that’s been maybe the most important thing that came out of it.”
Those preseason games also helped on the court. Buttermore said the pace of play and intensity they had to compete with against the Nebraska’s and Creighton’s of the world has only helped in tough matches against Denver and North Dakota State. It’s also helped from a lineup standpoint along with allowing his players to get used to their roles and build that familiarity.
No matter what’s been going on behind the scenes lately, it’s working, and it’s clicking on the court. Now it’s a matter of not getting too comfortable and continuing to build off the strong start. The Mavericks will look to continue their winning ways as they face South Dakota at 7 p.m. at Baxter Arena.