The Ashland University volleyball team enters one of the signature events of the season with a 16-4 overall record and with eyes on the postseason as the Midwest Region Crossover signifies the beginning of the home stretch of the regular season.
The Crossover, to be played at The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis for the first time, is the nation's largest collegiate volleyball event and will take place Friday and Saturday (Oct. 12-13). The tournament features 57 matches on 10 courts throughout six sessions. The 38 volleyball teams from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic, Great Lakes Valley and Great Midwest Athletic Conferences will each play at the event.
"It's an unbelievable event," said AU head coach Kevin Foeman. "It's a fast-paced, small environment. There's not much room in between each court. The whistles are loud, you can barely hear and communicate. It's one of the things we look forward to every year."
The Eagles will play three matches – two on Friday and one on Saturday. Ashland, as the GLIAC's No. 3 seed, will play the GLVC's No. 3 seed Illinois Springfield on Friday at 11:30 a.m. On Friday at 5:30 p.m., Ashland will square off with the GLVC's No. 7 seed McKendree. The Eagles will conclude the Crossover on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the G-MAC's top seed Hillsdale. Ashland beat the Chargers in four sets earlier this season.
"It gives us a chance to compete against the best in the region to really test how we can do and where we stand in the region," said Foeman.
While the most important aspect for the Eagles is winning its three matches on the docket, there is added benefit to the GLIAC teams performing well overall as it helps with AU's strength of schedule, which could be vital when it comes time for NCAA Tournament selection.
Even with their 16-4 overall mark and a 9-2 record in GLIAC play, the Eagles could make a case they are mere points from holding a 19-1 or 20-0 record. Ashland is 16-0 in matches settled in three or four sets, but 0-4 in matches that go the distance. Last week, the Eagles had No. 6 Ferris State on the ropes in the fourth set in its own gym, but faltered down the stretch as the Bulldogs rallied for the win.
Junior outside Shelby Woycik ranks third in the GLIAC with 3.53 kills per set and has won three of the seven GLIAC South Player of the Week awards. Junior outside Sophi Cudworth has also come on of late with double-digit kill totals in four of her last five matches and hitting .367 in that stretch. She is the reigning GLIAC South Player of the Week.
The Eagles have also benefited from the league's second-best block (2.26 blocks per set), and freshman setter Zoey Peck helping the squad hit .232 – good for third in the GLIAC.
Foeman has been impressed with the way his team has improved since he took over the program and with how the players have improved themselves.
"They're starting to believe in themselves," he said. "They're 100 percent bought into our system. They know the things we do in practice are going to directly reflect how we do on the court. We scout very well and they do a very good job of scouting themselves.
"They're learning how to adapt to change, they're learning how to be better all-around players. They're not just attackers. They're defenders and they serve-receive well. They're leaders."