‘We have a long ride’: Quinnipiac volleyball maintains confidence despite slow start

Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor

Alright, so I might not have been completely correct in my initial evaluation of Quinnipiac volleyball.

With a 3-12 overall record and a 2-6 record within the MAAC, the Bobcats are sitting eighth in a conference that fields only 10 teams. While that record may seem underwhelming for a team that was picked to finish third in the conference this season, there’s more nuance to it than one might expect.

This past week, the team finally arrived back at Burt Kahn Court to play its first slate of home games a month and a half into the season. Through the first three games of that home stand, the Bobcats are 1-2, with those matches being a five-set loss to Marist, a four-set loss to Iona and a win in straight sets against a severely depleted Manhattan roster.

Those two losses were extremely tough to swallow for the team. Even the victory against Manhattan felt hollow, as the Jaspers were only able to field the minimum six players and at one point pushed Quinnipiac to a 25-20 score in the third set.

At this point, morale looks like a rare and valuable commodity with each post-game feeling quieter and quieter. Considering the MAAC made the decision to include all 10 teams in the conference tournament for the 2022 season, that may be the one thing keeping the Bobcats chugging along.

“I’m angry, to be honest,” freshman setter Damla Gunes said after the Iona match on Oct. 8. “I feel like we lost an opportunity, but we have a long ride. We have the championship, we have other games. My team and I are not going to just focus on this match.”

However, the concept of gaining or losing confidence with each match is an idea head coach Kyle Robinson chooses to deal with in a way only he could.

“My morale is great,” Robinson said on Oct. 8. “I come to work every day and do my job. I love (my players), and I’m proud of that.”

When you watch this team enough, you begin to think, ‘These girls put in too much effort for all these matches to not go their way.’ The effort is visible. The Chronicle’s creative director, Peyton McKenzie, almost got knocked out while taking photographs on the sidelines during a match when two of the players went above and beyond to keep a play alive. It’s like that every time these women play.

It could be some of the smaller things that are bringing the Bobcats down. Since the beginning of October, Quinnipiac has committed a combined 86 attack errors across four matches, working out to 5.7 per set played. The team’s opponents have only committed 4.4 errors per set played during that stretch. When your team is giving the opponent that type of edge from the start, it can be difficult to work around.

It could be a larger problem looming over the team’s head that is causing its troubles. Injuries have been a nagging issue for Robinson and his squad all season long.

Sophomore libero Faavae Kimsel Moe missed three games earlier in the season with an undisclosed injury, which forced Robinson to move freshman hitter Yagmur Gunes to the libero spot in Kimsel Moe’s absence.

Yagmur is dealing with injuries herself currently, as a hurt right shoulder has limited her role as a hitter once again and put her back into a defensive specialist spot. However, she was willing to make some adjustments as long as it kept her in the game and kept her working until she was back up to speed.

“It’s really the coach’s decision right now,” the Bursa, Turkey, native said on Oct. 8. “When (Robinson) asked me, I felt that my shoulder was fine. It’s getting really strong. I feel I can give my 100% in a short time.”

The biggest injury that the Bobcats have faced this season has been the loss of stand-out freshman hitter Ginevra Giovagnoni. She has been out since Sept. 17, with what Robinson described as an abdominal injury. As of publication, there is still no timetable for her return and she has missed more matches than she has played this season.

Through it all, no one on this team expected to have a .200 winning percentage over halfway through the regular season schedule. However, there still may be opportunities for the Bobcats to earn better seeding come November.

In the next week, Quinnipiac has three very winnable games on its schedule. The first is a home match against Siena on Oct. 12, a team they have already beaten earlier in the season. The next two are road matches against an underperforming Rider squad, the team that beat Quinnipiac in last year’s MAAC semifinals, and the 0-21 Saint Peter’s Peacocks on Oct. 15, and 16, respectively.

If the Bobcats were to get all three of those victories, that would result in a 5-6 MAAC record and would likely place them at one of the middle spots of the conference standings with seven games left to play in the regular season.

So I may have been wrong in my preseason evaluation. This is a team that needs to grow. Having a younger squad can be difficult, and expecting them to make an impact immediately may be a tall order in a conference with heavyweights such as Fairfield, Marist or Iona.

However, there are still opportunities for this team to shine and prove that the beginning of the season was just a speed bump on the road to a MAAC championship. Only time will tell.