Howard Volleyball traveled to Fairfield, Connecticut, from Friday, Sept. 9, to Sunday, Sept. 11, for the Fairfield Invitational tournament. This was the second tournament of the season for the Bison.
The team has had a tough time in tournament play this season. With a record of (2-3) on the season heading into the weekend, they were looking to leave the tournament victorious. Something they were unable to do in the Green Wave Classic earlier this season.
When asked by the Hilltop about the difference in preparation heading into Connecticut, junior outside hitter Jennifer Bolden responded by saying, “I think the Green Wave Classic was a test on our strengths and weaknesses as a team, and I believe we were able to learn from them. We knew what we needed to work on that following week in practice to be better prepared at the Fairfield tournament.”
The Bison met the Washington State Cougars on the first match of the weekend, and from the start the team’s tournament misfortune seemed inescapable. After two sets the Bison trailed the Cougars 2-0, the Cougars taking the sets 25-13 and 25-17. Middle blocker Cimone Woodard and outside hitter Bria Woodard led the Howard Bison as game leaders in kills.
Though they were down, the Bison turned up the heat heading into the third set. Halfway through set three the team held a 14-13 lead. However, as the set continued things began to unravel for the Bison, as the Cougars scored three straight points retrieving their lead. The Cougars would hold onto their lead to win 25-22, winning the match overall 3-0.
In the second match of the weekend against the High Point University Panthers, the Bison were met with a similar fate. Cimone Woodard executed 12 kills as well as a pair of blocks in the first set, however the High Point offense was too much for the Bison , as they experienced another spiraling downfall as High Point went on a 6-1 run, leading to a 25-20 loss for the Bison. As the match continued heading into the second set the Bison fought hard, challenging High Point as the score went back and forth. Freshman setter Leah Reeves executed a service ace, solidifying their lead with a score of 19-18. However, a High Point 7-4 run had the Bison in a similar position: 2-0 set hole.
As the third set came and went, the score continued to go back and forth. However, High Point executed numerous runs which resulted in a third straight set win, the Bison again losing the match 3-0. However, senior setter Kayla Diaz was a major standout of the contest with 33 assists, a pair of aces served, two blocks, as well as three digs. Her dominant performance would lead to her being named theMid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) setter of the week for the second straight week.
When asked by the Hilltop about the team’s mindset heading into the rest of the weekend having dropped the first two games, junior outside hitter Jennifer Bolden responded by saying, “The energy changed dramatically from the first two games we played that resulted in a loss. After the second game we shifted our mental focus on playing to the best of our ability and focusing on what we needed to do to be successful instead of worrying about the other teams.”
The Bison found their first win of the weekend against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights in the third match of the weekend, winning three straight sets (25-16, 25-18, 25-13). Sophomore outside hitter Dami Awojobi led the team to victory, executing a hitting percentage of 0.444 as well a pair of blocks and ten kills. Woodard also executed nine kills, a pair of dogs, and five blocks of her own in contribution to the win for the Bison. Reeves also dominated in the third set, executing 15 kills, two service aces, and a hitting percentage of 0.600.
The Bison carried their momentum from the third match into the fourth, defeating the Fairfield Stags in a hard fought five-set match win. Bolden expressed to the Hilltop a message from Coach Kupferberg that encouraged a victory ending the weekend invitations, the coach stating, “It took us two sets to realize that we could actually hang with these teams, now it’s time to go to work”. The tournament ended in a 2-2 finish for the Bison as they secured the first two tournament wins this season.
When asked by the Hilltop about the overall team feeling after the Invitational, Bolden said, “Overall I think the Invitational went fairly well. We split the tournament 2-2, and I believe we realized the potential and depth we have on our team. At this tournament towards the end we did well on closing out games instead of letting teams maintain a lead. We started off winning the sets instead of playing from behind. I think we still need to work on our communication on the court but other than that consistent hard work will pay off for us in the end.”
Howard Volleyball hopes to build on their late match momentum moving forward into their third tournament of the season on Friday Sept. 16 as they travel to University Park, PA for the Penn State Classic.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew