As she brings her young volleyball team along at the Division I level, UNO coach Rose Shires knows that mistakes — errors — will happen.
Limiting those mistakes to one at a time is one of the keys to longer-term success.
“We are trying to get away from using youth as an excuse for errors — especially clumps of errors,” Shires said. “We need to string positive things together. And if a positive string is broken by one error — that’s fine. But we can’t have those streaks of multiple negatives, those empty possessions.”
Next up for UNO (4-10) is Drake (2-11), with Wednesday’s nonconference match in Des Moines scheduled for 7 p.m.
The teams played a five-set match in Omaha last year. The Mavericks led 12-10 in the fifth — but then had a service error, gave up an ace serve, then had back-to-back hitting errors to face match point against them at 14-12. They lost the set 15-13.
“Plays like service aces, service errors and hitting errors ... the other team isn’t even having to play the ball to score,” Shires said. “And that’s something we’ve got to change.”
Shires said the Mavs are still making progress, and she was pleased that her team out-blocked three of its more seasoned opponents — Miami (Fla.), Long Island and Tulsa — and limited Oklahoma star Sallie McLaurin to a .333 hitting percentage (well below her season rate) in the other.
With Summit League play starting this weekend — UNO hosts Western Illinois at 5 p.m. Saturday — the Mavs rank second in the conference in blocks (2.7 per set), paced by league leader Megan Schmale (1.5 per set).
Three of UNO’s four opponents last weekend also hit under .200, with LIU’s .237 the best number against the Mavs.
“I definitely see blocking as a strength,” Shires said. “We’re keeping teams to low percentages and making them hit where they don’t want to hit. Now we’ve got to turn that into points for us.”
UNO and the Missouri Valley Conference’s Drake were picked to finish last in their respective leagues.
Drake’s first-year coach is Darrin McBroom, who is coming off a successful stretch at Iowa Western Community College. One of the Bulldogs’ top players is sophomore Cassie Effken of Lincoln Pius X, who made the Valley’s all-freshman team last season. Effken, who had 10 kills against UNO in 2012, missed six matches with a foot injury before returning last weekend. When in the lineup, Effken averages 2.8 kills and 1.2 blocks while hitting .322.
Sophomore outside hitter Shelby Daum of Battle Creek, Neb., averages 1.4 kills and 0.5 blocks and made the all-tournament team at Iowa’s Hawkeye Challenge. Freshman Capris Quaites of Omaha Westside has started 11 matches for the Bulldogs.
The teams have two common opponents — Drake lost in four sets to Stetson, a team UNO swept, and Drake was swept by a Bradley team that beat UNO in four sets.
“It was a tight match last year, and we’re very excited about playing them,” Shires said. “Both programs want to see growth in their programs from last year. We’re really hoping to bring what we’ve done in preseason — the gains and successes we’ve made — into this match and into the beginning of conference play.”
» Sophomore Kelley Wollak, who leads UNO with 2.6 kills per set, had 17 kills and 22 digs last year against Drake.
» Schmale had 10 kills and hit .529 in last year’s meeting.
» UNO’s Bailey Baxter is third in the Summit with 0.33 service aces per set, while libero Kimberly Bailey is third with 3.8 digs per set.