The Huskies (8-5) are heading to Texas this weekend, as they prepare to face SMU (3-7) on Friday and Houston (13-2) on Sunday in their first conference matchups of the season. Head Coach Kris Grunwald is glad to be starting Conference play since it changes the way the Huskies can prepare for their upcoming opponents.
“The nice part of starting conference is we get to prepare for two matches in three days rather than having to try and prepare for three matches within a 30-hour window,” Grunwald said. “Our typical conference preparation is to focus on ourselves and areas needed for improvement and then start to prep for the Friday opponent at Thursday’s practice and then Saturday for the Sunday opponent. Thus we have the same amount of time for each opponent.”
Even though they sit at opposite sides of the standings in the American, SMU being near the bottom and Houston being at the top, Coach Grunwald is making sure his team looks beyond what lies on the surface.
“This weekend’s team on paper look very different but the majority of that is based upon their pre-conference scheduling,” Grunwald said. “SMU looks to be struggling but in fact they played an extremely difficult schedule and it just didn’t play out in their favor. Houston has a great record coming into conference but played a weaker schedule.”
SMU is a team led by all-around skill, in particular the skills of senior outside hitter Brittany Adams on the offensive end, and junior middle blocker Meryn Kennedy on the defensive end. Adams has totaled 121 kills thus far on a .202 hitting percentage and Kennedy has racked up an impressive 39 blocks, including six solo denials. Both have accumulated those stats in only 10 games this season. Coach Grunwald is aware of the capabilities SMU has, particularly on the defensive end, and is not going to let their current record distract him.
“SMU is always a physical and feisty team so our serve/pass game will predicate that match,” Grunwald said. “We have to be able to stay in system to allow our offense as many options as possible versus their defense.”
Houston has looked very strong over their first 15 games, and currently sits in first place of the American. They appear to be one of the more well-rounded teams in the conference, and can hurt you in a lot of different ways. The Cougars have four players with over 100 kills, including junior outside hitter Megan Duncan who has a team-leading 181, but their real power shows on the defensive end, where they have 112 total blocks, led by freshman middle blocker Kendall Haywood who has a very impressive 64 blocks on the season, including 14 solo rejections. Coach Grunwald is eager for his team to face the Cougars.
“The key to competing against them will be to again control the variables we can control,” said Grunwald. “I think we match up against them very well but we need to handle our individual technical and tactical responsibilities.”
Overall it should be a very exciting weekend for the Huskies, as they travel to Texas to face their first conference opponents of the season, hopefully walking away with a couple more wins and setting a precedent for the rest of the season.
Conner Gilson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.