HOUGHTON - Despite losing three of four matches last weekend in South Dakota, the Michigan Tech volleyball team took away two key confidence builders and determined two key areas it needs work on as the Huskies prepare to open conference play this weekend.
Tech (3-5) lost 3-1 to Augustana but closed out a tight first set 34-32, and the Huskies battled hard for a five-set win over Briar Cliff on day two.
"Our first game against Augustana was great," said setter and team captain Madeline Haben, who has 304 assists and 92 digs through eight matches. "Just to finish that up built our confidence, which was key, and finally getting that fifth-game win against Briar Cliff was a great feeling. It proved to us we can do it."
Haben and the team know they still have plenty of areas to work on, particularly defense and communication, which according to the junior, go hand in hand.
"That's one big thing. We fix our communication, we fix the whole game," she said.
The Huskies are actually looking forward to a third straight road trip, and the five-hour trip to Sault Ste. Marie for Friday's 7 p.m. match at Lake Superior State is nothing compared to the 17-hour bus trip to Spearfish, S.D. last week.
"Everyone keeps saying that's a lot (of travel), but I think it's actually one of our biggest strengths, being on the road. We know how to play that way," Haben said.
The Huskies are optimistic about their match-ups, too, for their first weekend of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
LSSU (also 3-5 in non-conference play) was picked 11th of 16 teams in the GLIAC preseason poll. Of course that means nothing to Tech, which was picked 15th, but with the Lakers losing five seniors from last year's 8-19 squad, including two starting hitters, a starting setter and the school's career digs leader, the door is open for a good start to conference play.
"I think if we just focus on our side, we have nothing to worry about," Haben said. "We haven't lost to a team this year. We've beaten ourselves."
After Friday night's match, Tech will immediately jump on the bus, which is expected to arrive in Saginaw around 1:30 a.m., just about 12 hours before Saturday's 2 p.m. match against Saginaw Valley State.
The Cardinals (4-5) were picked fourth in the GLIAC preseason poll after last year's 15-4 GLIAC season, the best in school history. But, SVSU lost six seniors from that squad. They'll rely heavily on senior setter Sam Breault, who, for comparison sake with Haben, has 226 assists through nine matches.
"They have pretty good ball movement, but it's nothing like we'll see later on in the conference," Haben said. "These are two very winnable matches for us. If we take care of our side, we'll be fine.
"We are a very good team, but when we do that we're an even better team."