Luke Henne | Sports Editor
Oct. 21, 2021
Anita Parrott, a middle hitter on the Duquesne volleyball team, could think of just one word to describe a stretch that saw the Dukes play five games in a 10-day span: behemoth.
“It took a lot of treatment, hydration and stretching to the make the most of it,” Parrott said. “Those things were easier to do with a home-court advantage.”
Each of the five games were played within the confines of UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Duquesne concluded the season’s longest homestand with a four-set victory over Fordham on Friday before falling in four sets to Rhode Island on Sunday.
Outside hitter Ashley Larson did not take the long stretch of home games for granted.
“It was nice not having to stress about traveling, especially with midterm week in the midst of it all,” Larson said. “It was nice to be able to just stress about playing volleyball and not how we would get there or what the other team’s home gym and atmosphere would be like.”
Despite finishing the homestand with two wins and three losses, setter Hailey Poling is proud of the way her team has responded to the struggles.
“Although we had a minor setback against Rhode Island, we took two big steps forward in our wins over Davidson [on Oct. 10] and Fordham,” Poling said. “We let this tough one go, and we’re already looking ahead toward next weekend at Davidson and VCU.”
Poling played in each of Duquesne’s eight sets during the two weekend contests, recording a total of 100 assists in the process.
Despite this performance, she’d rather focus on the team’s continued growth and success in the season’s second half.
“Our defense is really stepping up, and our offense is finding ways to score,” Poling said. “The most important thing to me is to continue learning how to be the best teammate on and off the court.”
Parrott, who posted a season-high 10 kills in the victory over Fordham, felt that the win couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Beating Fordham was definitely the boost I think we needed,” Parrott said. “It’s always a really great thing to see us really come together as a team and fight it out, but it’s even better when that fight gets us the results we were looking for.”
Throughout the Fordham contest, there was a palpable energy on Duquesne’s bench. Regardless of the score, teammates were dancing and supporting one another throughout the entire match.
Larson attributed that energy to a strong sense of chemistry.
“Having good team chemistry is huge,” Larson said. “We try to spend time together as much as possible to work on that chemistry, to understand each other and work through rough spots because that’s what makes us a team and what allows us to be more successful.”
Poling supplemented Larson’s praise of the team’s chemistry, saying that having energy is “the biggest part of the game and a huge determining factor of which team is going to fight more in the end.”
The Dukes are currently 4-5 in Atlantic 10 Conference action following the loss against Rhode Island. They’re set to embark on a four-game road trip that will keep them away from their home court until Nov. 5.
Parrott knows that there is no more room for error.
“I think the goal is definitely to rise to the occasion and make sure that we’re playing the game we know how to play,” Parrott said. “We don’t really have any matches we can afford to just figure things out in, so it’s full steam ahead now.”
A tangible goal for the team is to reach the Atlantic 10 Volleyball Championship, which will be hosted by Duquesne and held at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21.
The tournament awards berth to the conference’s top six teams. Entering play this weekend, the Dukes sit in fifth place in the conference’s standings.
Poling is eager to try to reach the aforementioned goal.
“We’re going to continue to have a short memory and keep on fighting,” Poling said. “This is an opportunity we plan to take advantage of and really use these [upcoming] games as momentum leading us into the A-10 tournament.”
Larson is prepared for opponents to bring their best for the remainder of the season.
“We know teams are going to be fired up and wanting to win, so we are going to have to respond with that same energy,” Larson said. “We are going to continue training hard and pushing each other to be the best versions of ourselves.”
In order to be successful, Poling knows that sustaining team unity will be essential.
“We are one team,” Poling said. “When one of us falls, we pick her up. When one of us rises, we all rise.”