The Oswego State volleyball team celebrated Senior Day with a victory over SUNYIT in straight sets Wednesday night in Max Ziel Gymnasium. With only two games remaining in the regular season, the Lakers hope to use this win to gain some momentum, as their first SUNYAC playoff appearance since 1996 is on the horizon.
The seniors took the court with confidence. After getting off to a quick start, the Lakers were able to maintain control throughout all three sets, winning with scores of 25-19, 25-16, 25-18. An injury to the Wildcats’ starting setter just two days prior to the game did not leave them with much time to prepare with their new lineup, giving Oswego State an advantage. First-year head coach J.J. O’Connell attributes his team’s success to the fact that he has given every one of the girls a chance to perform this season.
“We’ve taken the philosophy that we try and play everybody throughout the course of the year, and especially the last couple of weeks,” O’Connell said. “We’ve been letting everybody get repetitions, so when we threw the lineup together with all of the seniors, nobody panicked because everyone’s been playing the last two weeks. We’re trying to develop all of our players and give them opportunities.”
This philosophy has allowed the girls to gain more confidence and become comfortable with each other on the court. The Lakers displayed an extraordinary level of optimism during the game.
“You have to stay positive,” said senior Kelsey Ihle, the team’s starting libero and season leader in digs. “If, by any means, you become negative or get down on yourself…it’ll bring everyone down. We had to stay positive and we all have the same goal, so we had to keep that in mind.”
In the first set, Oswego State jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back. The Wildcats were unable to get within five points of the Lakers’ lead, as senior Brittany Jones tallied two of her four aces to help her team pull away. While the second set began much closer, the Lakers were able to go on a 13-4 run to take command once again. Senior Jenna Sniffen ended the set with one of her three kills on the day, putting her team in position to close out the game.
“We threw a lineup out there we haven’t put out all season, including Jenna Sniffen playing out of position,” O’Connell said. “She had been mostly a right side hitter this whole year for us, so the fact that she was able to slip over to the other side so easily was good for her and I think she played really well out there.”
The third set initially seemed as though it would go as smoothly as the first two, until the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to bring them within one point of the lead. The rest of the set remained competitive, but junior Meaghan Puff registered three kills over the final four points of the game to seal the Oswego State victory.
Although the regular season is nearly over for the Lakers, O’Connell is still looking for his team to improve in their last few games before the playoffs.
“I think we need to continue to score, and when we don’t have the great opportunities to score, we need to keep the ball in play,” O’Connell said. “Also, we’re trying to serve a little tougher without creating a lot of error.”
Oswego State will face SUNY New Paltz in their first playoff game on Nov. 2. The Hawks beat the Lakers earlier this season, and have been one of the top teams in the conference for several years.
“I think we definitely want it more than they do, because they’re used to the success and we’re not,” Ihle said.
O’Connell has been experimenting with new lineups and strategies to prepare his team for playoff success and has not forgotten the last time these two teams met.
“We’ve played New Paltz,” O’Connell said. “We know we have to defend well. They’re going to serve us tough and defend us well, and we’ve got to be able to score against them.”