While the 3-0 start looks great at first glance, I have a hard time feeling accomplished winning the Hilton Invitational. They went 3-0 in their three matches, but did drop two sets to Abilene Christian and a set to Louisiana Tech.
The five-set match against Abilene Christian is a little troubling since ACU is a University that has just began its first year of transitioning to Division I. ACU generally competed well in the Lone Star Conference in DII, but UTA Volleyball should be above competing with DI transitional schools.
The final win was against Louisiana Tech. That was a four-set match that is a bit frustrating too. Since they were a conference mate last year, they played twice last year and UTA won six out of seven sets. La Tech didn't win a WAC conference match last year. UTA finished two spots up in the standings with only five conference wins. C-USA thinks they haven't improved much since then, as they were voted to finish 14th out 15 schools. The first two sets were closer than they should been, including the one dropped set. The last two are what we really should expect, a 10+ win.
I hope there are two things at play here. One, the team had to shake off the rust coming out of the gate. They do return a lot of players from last year's 9-22 squad. Every year almost always introduces new players. This was their first match in roughly nine months, so maybe. The other is nerves. I would think ACU would be a bit more nervous, since they are transitioning. Against both ACU and La Tech, though, UTA started slow and then would win the final two sets. If they can play at or above the level of those final two sets, I think we could be alright.
I didn't want to mention the Grambling St sweep, because there are two things generally at play here. The first is that Southwestern Athletic Conference volleyball teams are generally terrible, with wins usually coming against other SWAC teams, and Louisiana volleyball teams as a whole are usually terrible. This was the equivalent to a top level college football team playing the bottom team in the next lowest division. It was a warm up. I hope this helps with the confidence level of the team. But I don't think it did much else.
We will know more about this team come tonight when they face North Texas in Denton. UTA lost last year in five sets at CPC. UNT would go on to win 26 matches and was the top team in the SBC West Division. They return five starters and their Libero, so they should be experienced. The C-USA poll has the Mean Green in a jumble among the top four teams, as well as two on the preseason All-Conference 1st team. The only question mark is the coach, who is in his first year at the helm. His previous season was a six win campaign at Washington State. The Pac-12 is no joke in volleyball, so that doesn't mean anything.
UNT is 1-2 on the young season. They lost the first match of the Loyola Marymount Tournament to Loyola, 3-0. Not quite like the Pac-12, but the West Coast Conference is a really solid volleyball conference. They were then swept by #12 UCLA on day two, and then they swept Albany to wrap it up. BTW, Loyola lost to UCLA 3-1. Albany was the equivalent to Grambling in that tournament, they didn't win a set.
UTA at UNT tonight at 7.