By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
The schedule maker didn’t do UNO any favors in the Mavs’ opening weekend of Summit League play. South Dakota State and North Dakota State, two teams picked to finish in the top three of the conference, came to Omaha on back-to-back nights.
The Jackrabbits and Bison were even more unkind. UNO was swept 3-0 in both matches and dropped to 5-7, 0-2 in The Summit League. Welcome to the conference.
Both nights the Mavs fell victim to long rallies from the opponent and failed to finish off a set when they had a late lead.
“We gotta get in the gym on Monday and we gotta work,” coach Rose Shires said. “We gotta work and we gotta understand emotionally and mentally we have to play at a very high level all the time so we don’t beat ourselves. And that’s really what happened.”
Friday UNO led South Dakota State 12-9 in the first set, but scored only one of the next 14 points. Two timeouts from Shires did little to stem the tide, and SDSU won the set 25-16.
In the second, the Mavs had a 23-22 lead, but couldn’t finish. In a scenario that would replay itself the next night, UNO let the next three points get away and lost 25-22.
“Two nights in a row we’re up 23-22 and [then we] have three errors in a row to finish the set,” Shires said. “Two nights in a row we had, on match point, a service error. That’s just us mentally not taking care of our business.”
Saturday UNO led the first set against North Dakota State 23-22, and got the next point on a kill by sophomore Jessy Schroedter. But the Mavs hit two of their next four attacks in the net and lost four points in a row to drop the set 26-24.
In the second it seemed UNO had recovered from that disappointment after building an early 6-2 lead. But another big run by the opponent doomed the Mavs’ chances.
The Bison fired off 11 straight, and eventually won the set 25-15.
“We beat ourselves,” Shires said after Saturday night’s loss. “We totally turned it on, turned it off, turned it on, turned it off, and we did not play consistent through the entire match. It was not the type of competitive play that we want.”
Friday, UNO never recovered from the second set and dropped the third 25-16. Saturday the Mavs fought back from an 8-4 deficit to take a 14-10 lead in set three.
But again UNO couldn’t sustain their success and quickly found themselves down 20-16. NDSU finished off the Mavs 25-20 to complete the sweep.
“The thing is they would get one point on us and you could see the defeat in the faces of our players and that’s not what we need,” Shires said. “We need to aggressively attack and sustain that attack the entire match.”
UNO hit .116 on Friday and barely bettered that mark with a .117 on Saturday. Freshman Kelley Wollak led the way in both matches, earning 10 kills against SDSU and 9 the next night against NDSU.
But both nights the Mavs had 20 plus hitting errors and at times, simply couldn’t pass the ball. UNO converted just 47 percent of their sideout chances Friday, and worsened that mark to just 39 percent on Saturday.
“We didn’t play our game at all,” redshirt freshman setter Bailey Baxter said. “I think we beat ourselves. We did error after error, that’s something that we have to be able to handle.”
It might be easy to point to the fact that more than half the players UNO puts out on the floor are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Youth tends to create big swings in emotion and performance.
Shires won’t accept that excuse.
“Some of it is youth and some of it is just, I don’t care how old you are, you can be a competitive player from start to finish,” Shires said. “That’s what we have to do in times like this of duress.”