Head coach Tim Loesch and his UTPB volleyball players know it’s still early in the season and that conference play hasn’t started yet but they won’t complain about the results from the past two weeks.
UTPB’s currently only one of five teams in the Lone Star Conference with one loss or fewer but Loesch knows that’ll raise everybody else’s expectations of the Falcons going forward.
“It’s a good start for us and it does give us a lot of confidence,” Loesch said. “We don’t want to rest on our laurels.”
That’ll start with this week’s tournament at Lubbock Christian which will run from Sept. 14-16.
UTPB will face undefeated Lubbock Christian (7-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday before going up against Oklahoma Christian (6-2) at 3 p.m. Friday before finishing up against Texas Woman’s University (5-3) at noon Saturday.
“We have three tough conference teams this weekend and we don’t want to be cocky,” Loesch said. “We want to be confident and they have some confidence now. Now the target is on our backs. Teams know we’re going to be pretty good this year and they’re going to prepare for us. We have to continue to grow.”
UTPB’s only loss so far this season was a 3-0 defeat to Angelo State Sept. 2 in San Angelo.
The Falcons finished up their second weekend tournament of the season this past week at home with the Dr. Steve Aicinena “Iceman” Invitational by going undefeated through all four games, bringing their overall record to 7-1 for the season.
UTPB began the tournament with a sweep over Minnesota-Crookston last Thursday before defeating Eastern New Mexico in four sets on Friday.
The Falcons wrapped up the tournament with a 3-2 win over St. Mary’s, followed by a 3-0 win over Sul Ross State on Saturday.
“I saw them rise to the challenge,” Loesch said. “We played a couple of weaker teams and a couple of stronger teams and they improved the level of play throughout the weekend. That’s what we challenged our players to do from last week. We didn’t do what we wanted to do that first weekend and now we were able to do more of what we wanted to on offense, specifically, against Eastern New Mexico and St. Mary’s.”
One of the crucial takeaways from last weekend’s tournament for Loesch was his team’s ability to adjust as well as staying healthy after playing a lot of volleyball in a short amount of time.
“That’s crucial for our long season,” Loesch said. “Our offense and defense improved, a lot. Offensively, our hitters and setters were connecting a lot better. We were executing with more consistency with our attacking. Defensively, we had to make a lot of adjustments with four different teams. They were able to pull that off better than other teams were able to adjust to us. We’re willing to make adjustments to make the team more successful.”
UTPB’s win over St. Mary’s was the second five-set match for the Falcons this season.
Loesch said the team ad to make substitutes because it was the final day of the tournament.
“We had some tired legs,” Loesch said. “We couldn’t go with the lineup that we started with. We had girls come off the bench and do great stuff for us. That was crucial that we were able to do that. St. Mary’s is a good team. They played tough. We’d win a set and they’d get the next one. We thought we had them in the fourth set but they came back and pushed it to five. We made a few key plays in a row and won the fifth set.”
Still, with plenty of season left to play, the Falcons know there’s a lot of stuff to improve on.
“We had to take some stuff out our offense that we weren’t consistent enough with and we want to put that stuff back in and continue to give teams different looks,” Loesch said. “Consistency is the biggest thing. We teach the players new stuff each year … we need to be more consistent with our offense, whether it’s our passing, setting or hitting or blocking on our defense, it’s going to be crucial for us.”
Looking ahead to this week’s tournament, UTPB will be facing an undefeated Lubbock Christian team that Loesch said has played a weaker schedule.
“They’re a little untested,” Loesch said. “They haven’t played anyone from the LSC. We know they have a couple of good hitters that we’re going to have key on and we’re going to make some offensive adjustments. That’s why we play the games. You don’t know until you get out on the court with them. All the teams will be tough this weekend. They all have winning records. They all finished in the middle of the lone star last year.”
Texas Woman’s University has so far played against the likes of national powerhouse Nebraska-Kearney (losing 3-1) and Central Oklahoma (losing in five sets).
“TWU has probably played the toughest schedule next to us,” Loesch said. “I’m expecting them to be more-tested than the rest of our opponents but we’re not taking any of them lightly. We’re going to prepare for each one and try to go 3-0 this weekend.”