Assistant Sports Editor
It wasn’t pretty, but the VCU volleyball team will take any road they can get on, so long as it ultimately leads to the CAA championship game.
The Rams clinched the sixth and final spot in the conference tournament on Saturday night, defeating Georgia State at home in what was a four-set struggle.
“That was fun. It was awesome,” said head coach James Finley. “It’s great to be back in.”
VCU cruised through the first set maintaining a commanding five-point lead throughout, playing with a pace and a swagger that showed they were the superior team. Seven unforced errors by Georgia State helped as well, but Jessica Ojukwu and Jasmine Waters were simply dominant up front for VCU.
“You’ve got to have a couple of go-to’s,” said Finley. “For those two in particular to be able to carry us is great.”
Waters finished the night with 11 kills, eight of which came in the opening two sets. Ojukwu would finish with 10 kills to go along with 6 digs.
Waters and Ojukwu were pivotal in getting VCU the lead, but it was Kristin Boyd who came through in the end. The third and fourth sets were back-and-forth, but whenever the Rams needed to kill a Georgia State rally, it was Boyd who got the job done.
“She’s been pretty amazing. We just want her to play like that from the beginning,” said Finley. “We give her a hard time about that. We’ll ask her if we need to make her mad before we start playing.”
Boyd is notorious for stepping her game up at the end of matches, and Saturday night was no different. Eight of her team-leading 12 kills came in the final two sets, both of which were won by VCU.
“I wish I knew,” said Boyd on why she plays so well at the end of games. “I guess there’s a sense of urgency with me so if I feel like my teammates aren’t getting it done, and they need the extra push, I feel like I have to exert that little bit of more energy to get everybody going.”
Another one of VCU’s sparkplugs was Marisa Low, whose 15 digs were second on the team only behind Amanda Friday’s 27. Low’s biggest contribution was a dig that came early in the fourth set with Georgia St. still hanging around. On one of the longest rallies of the entire match, Low kept the ball alive, laying out with a full extension and completely sacrificing her body. VCU would go on to win the point and gained an emotional boost that would carry them through the rest of the set.
After Low’s diving effort, the Rams would win the next five consecutive points and cruise to their third consecutive CAA Tournament appearence.
Finley said that he doesn’t think the team is playing to their full potential, but they’re well on their way.
“We’ve had our ups and downs this year,” he said. “But you want to peak at the end of the season, and we’re getting there.”
Although VCU has clinched a slot in the tournament, they still have two regular-season matches left before the postseason begins. They will play host to William & Mary on Nov. 10 in their final conference game before playing Norfolk State on Nov. 15 for senior night. The playoffs begin just five days later.
Photos by Amber-Lynn Taber