Assistant Sports Editor
A rewarding homecoming has arrived in a timely manner for the VCU volleyball team in the midst a complete season turnaround. After competing in an overwhelming 22 of 27 games on the road, the Rams return home for a final five-game stretch to close out the regular season.
“We’re excited about being able to finish out here this week and next week at home and it will give the kids a lot of confidence,” head coach James Finley said. “We have the best crowd in the conference and it’s great, you come in and it’s exciting and there’s lots of energy and it makes a big difference in how you perform.”
Following a 2-13 overall record to start the season due to a tough out-of-conference schedule featuring six nationally-ranked teams, the Rams find themselves in control of second place in the Colonial Athletic Association at 8-3 in the conference 12 matches later.
“It’s a combination of getting through the preseason and then the team coming together and learning the system with new players,” Finley said. “The kids have been coming in and working hard in practice and I think as their confidence has grown and they’ve seen the numbers changing and growing as far as percentages and how we’ve moved up in the conference, you start getting this ‘we can win all of this,’ and it’s fun watching the young kids’ confidence start to come.”
The tough schedule continues for the Rams as they go head-to-head against the first-place Delaware Blue Hens (20-5, 9-1) Friday at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Finley is confident that his young team will be able to continue its recent success and handle a streaming Delaware team that made VCU a part of its eight-game win streak on Oct. 8 with a 3-0 win.
“We are working on the things that we weren’t successful on and then reevaluating the things that were,” Finley said. “The girls don’t have any doubt that they can come in and win this game and that’s the first step.”
The Rams will look to tame CAA Co-Offensive Player of the Week Jess Chason and the Blue Hens’ conference best hitting percentage with help from Defensive Player of the Week and senior leader Kelsie Clegg (Boise, Idaho/Boise Senior High) who became the first Ram in program history to attain 400 blocks.
“(Clegg) just comes up with big plays on the court and we get that out of her with the big kills and leading hitting percentage, so we get it offensively and defensively from her,” Finley said. “However, the thing that’s so valuable off the court is the really positive, confident energy that she brings to the team and how she always comes in and works hard every day.”
In the comforts of its home-court, VCU will close out its competitive regular season in front of a home crowd in hopes of keeping a top-four spot in the CAA.
“We need to work on our consistency and for me it’s about executing and being ready to go and put people away down the stretch,” Finley said.
When asked how it feels to compete at home in the final stretch of the season, Finley let out a sigh of relief and said, “It’s just kind of like a big relief, I am so excited to play at home in front of our fans.”