The Ashland University volleyball team will make its annual trek to Aurora, Ill. this week for the Midwest Region Volleyball Crossover Tournament. The event features 36 teams from the NCAA Division II Midwest Region in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) and the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC).
The Eagles (10-7, 4-5 GLIAC) will play three matches at the event, one on Friday and two on Saturday. AU takes on Kentucky Wesleyan (9-12) at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Southern Indiana (4-13) at 11 a.m. Saturday and Missouri-St. Louis (11-6) at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Ashland enters this year's crossover event in an eerily similar way it did last year's. Last season, the Eagles came in with a 10-8 overall mark and were 4-5 in the GLIAC, having lost three straight matches. This year, the Eagles are coming off two straight defeats and have an identical conference record.
The Eagles will hope for similar results in Aurora as well.
Last season, the Eagles used the crossover as a springboard through the rest of the regular season, winning all three at the event to start a nine-match winning streak and a stretch in which they won 13 of 14 to advance all the way to the GLIAC championship match and the NCAA Tournament.
"Last year we gained our momentum at the crossover," said sophomore outside hitter Shelby Woycik. "If we can do that this year, our year is going to go so much better. After that we have four home games, so that will keep us energized as well."
The Eagles have won 21 straight matches at Kates Gymnasium. It's been on the road where the unit as seen its troubles.
"Going into this knowing that we're going to be home and trying to keep the winning streak going will be important," Woycik said.
The Eagles are 5-1 the last two years at the crossover and are 10-8 in six seasons under Cass Dixon at the event.
Ashland will look to rely on its balanced attack this weekend. While Woycik leads the GLIAC in kills per set, the Eagles have three other players with between 114-118 kills on the season – redshirt-sophomore Michaela Ping, junior Reanne Neal and sophomore Sophi Cudworth. Those three have stepped in nicely as the Eagles replaced a pair of 1,000-kill players from last year in Alli Cudworth and Casey Clark.
"We're very young, but there's so much talent all around," Woycik said. "We have people moving all around. We have strong hitters everywhere even though we lost our two power hitters."
After the crossover, the Eagles will put their 21-match winning streak on the line beginning with a test against nationally-ranked Ferris State – the defending GLIAC champion – on Oct. 20.