The Pilots must get used to tough competition in the WCC as fierce road lies ahead
By Taylor Tobin, Staff Writer email@example.com
During the Pilots' match against top WCC team and No. 15 nationally ranked San Diego on Sept. 29, senior outside hitter Ariel Usher nailed her 1,000th kill into the floorboards.
Usher is just the tenth volleyball player from the University of Portland to reach the 1,000 kill mark.
"[Getting it] feels good. It must feel good for my team, because at that point, we have the momentum coming from our side," Usher said. "It's a great feeling."
Despite the excitement of Usher's accomplishment, the Pilots fell short to the Toreros, losing 3-1.
Coach Joe Houck thinks that playing in the WCC is a great opportunity, despite the team's defeats in conference play this season.
"The cool thing about being in the West Coast Conference in the sport of volleyball is that every single night we are playing a ranked team or a team that could be ranked. San Diego is one of the perennial top teams in our conference, and they are nationally ranked," Houck said. "That's a challenge that we've enjoyed in our schedule so far with Penn State and some [other] strong teams. It's a chance to test ourselves."
As the team prepares to play WCC fourth ranked Santa Clara on Oct. 4 and fifth ranked San Francisco on Oct. 6., sophomore defensive specialist Jacqueline Rodriguez keeps one thing in mind-consistency.
"I'm looking forward to working on our consistency. Since we haven't won in conference [play], we can only move up," Rodriquez said. "As long as we all have the same mindset, we can be consistent and work together."
Usher believes her team can work together by collectively putting their will on the court.
"Everyone knows they need to give one-hundred percent every night in the WCC, because it's such a strong conference," Usher said. "[We need to put] our will on the game."
This standard is something Houck admires about his team.
"They're persistent and they have lofty expectations for themselves," Houck said. "They work hard every single night."
Part of giving all your effort in a volleyball match is constantly communicating with teammates. From a high five or "Nice dig!" to "You'll get the next pass!" on a serve-receive error, volleyball is truly a game of communication.
"You have to always over-communicate. The second I notice something, I say something," Rodriguez said. "If you feel anything is quiet, you have to communicate."
Not only do the girls need to communicate verbally, but they also must look their teammates in the eye. This keeps the players attentive and ready to perform.
"Eye contact [is] really [important in] making sure everyone is in on the game and everyone is on the same page," Rodriguez said.
When Rodriguez needs someone to encourage her, she looks to Usher or junior setter Monica Jordan. If they are not on the court, she will turn to anyone to help her out. Rodriguez knows that all of her teammates have her back, just as she is there for them.
For Rodriquez, part of supporting her teammates is performing her best in the game and getting digs.
"[Getting a dig feels great], especially with long rallies. I get the dig for my teammates not myself; it's even better than doing [it] for myself," Rodriguez said. "I can't help, but just smile."