Benjamin Gottschalk | Staff Writer
Oct. 13, 2022
The Duquesne volleyball team dropped all three sets in a defeat at the hands of Loyola of Chicago at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon.
The loss dropped Duquesne to 3-16 on the season and was the Dukes’ eighth loss in a row.
“I think we are getting too comfortable with losing. We need to turn that around and just play more as a team,” said senior setter Hailey Poling.
Poling had a team-high 25 assists in the loss for Duquesne. Fellow senior Morgan Kelly chipped in with a team-best 10 kills and two blocks.
Each team made a few runs during the first set. It was back-and-forth, with the score being tied seven different times in the frame. After falling behind 16-15, the Ramblers closed on a 10-5 run to secure the first set by a 25-21 tally.
“[Back-and-forth sets] are super disappointing because when you’re fighting that hard, you want to win,” Poling said. “It’s a huge momentum change if you’re giving it your all, you lose those points, and you see the other team cheering.”
With the second set separated by just one point at 15-14, Loyola of Chicago used a 4-0 run to grab a 19-14 lead, and they’d go on to win the second set by an identical 25-21 mark.
In what was the decisive third set, the Ramblers cruised to a 25-16 win and a three-set sweep of the Atlantic 10 Conference match.
Despite the contest ending in three sets, the Dukes were in it for most of the afternoon.
“That’s when it’s kind of hard to stomach that because we are back and forth with them, and we keep beating ourselves,” said Head Coach Steve Opperman. “There are still some unforced errors that keep biting us in the butt. I thought, for the most part, we did a decent job.”
Opperman believes that the team will be competitive once the Dukes can overcome the obstacle of mental mistakes, which he attributed to the lack of success.
“It’s not a 3-16 team. If you’ve watched us play and you watch how hard our kids work, you see that the team is better than their actual record is,” Opperman said. “Once we eliminate some of the controllable errors on our side of the floor, our kids are just going to take off.”
Opperman described Loyola of Chicago as being “good out of system or in transition,” and he said that he thought “that’s where they capitalized on [Duquesne]” during losses on both Saturday and Sunday.
When asked about competing against a team with heavy veteran leadership (just two freshmen), Poling said that that’s not an excuse, but it can be a factor, especially by contrast.
“We do have a very young team, we have about four to five freshmen playing every game,” Poling said. “That does make a huge difference when you talk about team chemistry.”
In a season that has had a lot of downs and very few ups, Duquesne is still looking to build chemistry within its young team.
“I don’t think we have the mindset that other teams have,” Poling said. “We don’t have that fire under us, and that’s what we need to change.”
The Dukes will be in action on Friday and Saturday, when they battle Rhode Island on the road on consecutive days. After a two-game swing to George Mason next weekend, Duquesne will return home to host Dayton on Oct. 25.