After playing at home for the first two matches of the Big Sky Conference portion of the schedule, the UNC volleyball team prepares for its first road test of league teams this weekend.
The first match will be against Idaho State where the University of Northern Colorado will take on the Bengals at 7 p.m. tonight in Pocatello, Idaho. The road trip continues with a 4 p.m. match Saturday against Weber State in Ogden, Utah.
The Bears (9-2, 2-0 Big Sky) have not left their home court since playing in the Belmont Invitational Aug. 24-25. Head coach Lyndsey Oates said she is excited to be on the road again, and she thinks the players are too.
“I’m looking forward to traveling,” Oates said. “They’re a fun group to be with on the road. You get to build that team chemistry a little bit on the road moreso than you do at home where there are other distractions. So as nice as it was to play so many matches here at Butler, I think our team is really looking forward to getting on the road."
Idaho State (8-3, 2-0) will offer the Bears a defensive challenge, a predicament Oates said she is well aware of.
“They have a good aggressive setter, and they’re scrappy,” Oates said. “They are going to be tough to score against. Defensively they pick up everything, so they are going to be one of our toughest matches of the year.”
Weber State (6-8, 0-3) has not had as much success as the Bengals so far this season. Despite the Wildcats losing their first three conference matches of the year, UNC senior outside hitter Kelley Arnold said she does not want to take Weber State lightly.
“I think for any team, regardless of who they are, you don’t want to underestimate them, so you always want to go in expecting that they’re going to play the best match that they’re ever going to play,” said Arnold, who was named Big Sky Player of the Week last week. “We’re not going to do anything different than practice just as hard as if we were playing one our biggest rivals or just a top-50 team.”
UNC has been working hard on team defense this week, and sophomore middle blocker Andrea Spaustat said practice has been focused on blocking and covering hitters.
“We’re hoping to just improve a lot in blocking and go up in our blocking stats and just improve all around in that area,” Spaustat said. “We’re a good offensive team, and we’re a good serving team, but we really want to improve in those areas.”
After this road trip, the Bears return home for a match at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion to face Sacramento State.