COLUMBIA — The season started tough for the Columbia College volleyball team, but the team is gradually finding its groove as the Cougars hit the road Wednesday for the first of eight consecutive away games.
The travel starts with five games in Illinois, followed by matches scheduled against College of the Ozarks and William Woods University in Fulton on Oct. 1. The Cougars are scheduled wrap up this round of travel by playing cross-town Stephens College on Oct. 2.
The time on the road gives players a chance to connect and grow closer as a team, junior Lydie van Deursen said. The players spend hours together between games, at hotels and on the bus.
"I don't mind playing on the road. Sometimes it's good to get them (the players) away, off campus," coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said. "We've been doing grade checks and really keeping up academically over the last couple weeks so that we're in a good position to go on those road trips. I think it'll be nice, actually, for us to get on the road and see some different sights."
Wrye-Washington worked in tough conditioning over the first month of the season, and it's starting to pay off. Van Deursen had to adjust to jump setting at Columbia, so the conditioning aspect has been especially important for her.
"I need to get with my feet to the ball so that my body position is good," van Deursen said. "And that's really important as a setter."
Another thing Wrye-Washington has been working on is finalizing the starters — she said she's tried different combinations and is nearing a set lineup.
It's good progress as the team continues to jell.
"We've got a long way to go, but it's better than it was the first couple weeks," Wrye-Washington said.
The team had to incorporate many new players while losing key returners to injuries, including outside hitters senior Brooke Simpson, who is out for the season, and junior Polina Severina, who is scheduled to return Oct. 2.
Supervising editor is Erik Hall: sports@ColumbiaMissourian.com, 882-5729.