WVU finishes winless in Big 12
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 06:11
While most West Virginia University students were at home enjoying their break from the chaos of classes, the Mountaineer volleyball team failed to catch a break of their own in a season-ending loss to TCU Saturday.
After a sluggish start against West Virginia head coach Jill Kramer’s alma mater, the Mountaineers struggled to ignite offensively, as a .011 hit percentage anchored all attempts at a comeback for the young West Virginia squad.
"I think this loss was really tough for the girls," Kramer said. "They really wanted this one to go their way. They’ve been working so hard, and they’ve put forth great effort. It’s tough to see that not paying off right now."
The loss to the Horned Frogs capped a 16-game losing streak to end the season and a 0-16 Big 12 Conference record for the Mountaineers as the team shifts gears toward offseason preparations.
"I think there is a lot we did well this season," said West Virginia libero Anna Panagiotakopoulos. "We’ve done a great job of adjusting and just getting better as a whole throughout the season."
Panagiotakopoulos became a big part of the Mountaineer’s adjustments this season. The freshman libero went down with an undetermined lower back injury in October and forced the team to play without their leading defender.
West Virginia outside hitter Hannah Sackett took notice of her own defensive shortcomings during that time, which led the coaching staff to put Sackett to work on her defensive skills.
"I definitely need to focus on my leg strength in the offseason," Sackett said. "I need to be able to get down and dig more balls out and just be prepared to improve defensively. All season I’ve just eaten up the criticism the coaches have for me. I love it, and I’m ready to get to work and get ready for the fall season."
In Big 12 play, volleyball is a way of life, as the conference has produced four top-25 teams this season and may have a strong shot to post an NCAA champion as No. 3 Texas looks to make a run in this year’s NCAA volleyball tournament. Accordingly, the expectations for Kramer and her Mountaineers are as high as can be.
"We play in the Big 12, and it’s a tough conference," Panagiotakopoulos said. "Our expectations are very high. I think with all the improvements we’ve made already and with our improvements during the spring, we will come back much stronger next year and take half or maybe more than half of our conference games. We will definitely give Texas a run for their money."
Panagiotakopoulos has emerged as a solid candidate to take over the captain’s position, which will be vacated by senior Karly Rasmussen, who was recently named Big 12 Conference All-Academic athlete and will graduate with a 4.0 GPA.
"Having that consistent emotional support is something we need," Sackett said. "Especially with all the lulls and highs of the season, it’s important to have that stability and having (Anna) around with Brittany (Sample) and me is huge for that."
Sackett and Panagiotakopoulos both end the season as leaders in kills and digs for the Mountaineers with 267 and 297 respectively. Freshman setter Brittany Sample fell just 40 assists shy of having her first 1,000-assist season of her collegiate career, as the Red Oak, Texas, native recorded 960 assists throughout the season to lead WVU in the category.