After going 2-1 and nearly going undefeated at the Midwest Region Volleyball Crossover, Ashland University's volleyball team returns to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action with a pair of road matches this weekend.
The Eagles (14-6 overall, 7-2 GLIAC) will go to Saginaw Valley State (16-4, 6-3) on Friday (Oct. 23) at 7 p.m. in matchup of two teams receiving votes in this week's national poll. AU will then travel to Wayne State (8-13, 3-6) for a 2 p.m. match on Saturday (Oct. 24).
"Saginaw is good. We've been telling the kids that they are a copy of McKendree – they're big, they dig balls, they do some really good things," said AU head coach Cass Dixon. "So we're going to have to go in and we're going to have to outlast them, we're going to have to outwork them.
"Wayne, they may not have as many wins as what they would like, but they're still a quality team. We're going to have to play well to get two wins this weekend."
Ashland is 4-0 on the road and 9-4 in road/neutral-site matches in 2015.
At the Crossover, the Eagles won 3-0 against Indianapolis, took a tough 3-2 loss to Truman after being down 2-0 and rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 against McKendree.
"We came out and we played really strong from start to finish against UIndy," Dixon said. "They're a good team, and we had it. Everything was clicking when we played them. We came out against Truman and McKendree both, and it wasn't a fast start. It wasn't like we were doing anything bad, we just couldn't find the rhythm early.
"I'm really proud of the team, how they put themselves in that situation on Friday, and then to basically have a carbon copy of it on Saturday and learn from that experience and be able to make a change in the end and come out winners."
After having played No. 3 Ferris State (loss) and No. 24 Grand Valley State (win) at home, then three regional matches at the Crossover, the Eagles have a good gauge of where they stand, should an NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament appearance materialize.
"We still are going one game at a time," Dixon said. "I feel like we get better every day. It may not always equate to a win, but I feel like we're getting better every day, and we're learning from our experiences, not allowing the negatives to affect us negatively."
Ashland had plenty of contributors to its near-undefeated Crossover weekend.
"It was everybody," said Dixon. "I don't think there was one person at any given point and time that I go, 'We couldn't do this without her.' It was a total team effort. We weren't all playing at our optimal levels, especially in those Truman and McKendree matches, and we had other people step up and do their jobs, which took the pressure off other people."
The Eagles are fourth in the GLIAC in service aces per set (1.68). Individually, junior outside hitter Alli Cudworth leads the conference in kills per set (4.26), service aces (47) and points per set (5.1).