Red Hawks volleyball hits road for first time in 2019

Red Hawks volleyball hits road for first time in 2019

HICKORY, N.C. — The fifth-ranked Catawba Valley Community College volleyball program makes its first road trip of 2019 on Friday and Saturday when it participates in the Owens Invitational in Perrysburg, Ohio.

The Red Hawks (1-0) are coming off a 3-0 season-opening win at the Tarlton Complex on Tuesday night against Southwest Virginia Community College.

CVCC head volleyball coach Shannon Hudson is anxious to see her team compete away from home for the first time this fall season.

"We're excited," Hudson said. "I think they're ready. They've worked hard all through preseason, and we had a good day of scrimmaging last Saturday to kind of get us prepared for this weekend. I think they are ready to face some competition, learn some stuff and see what we need to continue to improve on so that we can be our best this year."

Not only will this mark the first road trip of the 2019 fall campaign, but also the first for Hudson's group of eight freshmen Red Hawk volleyball players.

Hudson said this weekend's tournament will be an adjustment for her first-year athletes.

"They're going to have to work through some nerves of being in a different setting," she said. "After a long bus ride, they need to be ready to step on the court and play. I think last weekend helped prepare us with the NCAA competition that we faced."

Catawba Valley is immediately "thrown into the fire" on its first day of competition at the Owens Invitational, facing match ups with two nationally ranked teams in No. 2 Parkland (9-0) and Muskegon, which received votes in the preseason DII national poll.

Hudson likes the challenge of playing two premiere volleyball programs at the start of the Owens Invitational.

"This has kind of been the trend for the past few years," Hudson said. "We go up there and face one of the toughest teams in the country in the first round of the tournament. It's one of the main reasons we go up there is because the competition is just so good and so fierce. You learn so much as a team right at the beginning of the year. If you're not facing that kind of competition then you're not seeing what you need to work on and improve on. This tournament is one of the best things that we can do right at the beginning of the season to learn how to grow and what we need to do to improve and get better as a team. Is it a little scary facing Parkland first? Yes, but it's going to be okay. We're going to learn."

Parkland has played nine matches so far this season, having not given up a single set in those nine victories.

"Their first few matches this year they've been pretty much unstoppable," Hudson said of Parkland. "They play really clean. We're going to have to really reduce our errors and play a clean volleyball match in order to be competitive against them."

Hudson said Parkland's strategy of playing a full schedule of matches every season is something she's tried to replicate with her teams over the past 11 years she's been coach at CVCC.

"(Parkland volleyball coach Cliff Hastings) has a large roster so he's able to do that and keep his kids fresh at the same time," Hudson said. "I think his philosophy is that you get better by playing. It's something honestly that we've tried to emulate and look at what the best teams in the country are doing that we're not doing that could help us improve. Any time I can copy what an amazing coach or an amazing program is doing and do that as well, I think it's going to make us a great program. It makes me a better coach for sure. It makes your team better to get on the court, grow and figure some things out."

While playing four matches in two days will be one benefit of the Owens Invitational, Hudson and her players will get a chance to look at some other competition they'll face later this fall, including the host Express, who are the defending NJCAA DIII National champions.

Owens plays in the Red Hawks' Valley Invitational on Oct. 4-5 at the Tarlton Complex.

"Several of the teams up there are going to be coming to our invitational tournament," Hudson said. "It's nice to kind of connect with coaching friends and see what their rosters look like for the year. It gives you a little bit of a head start going into different tournaments throughout the season. That'll be good to kind of do a little bit of scouting while we're up there and get a feel for how the rest of the season is going to go."

While remaining undefeated at the end of the weekend would be great, Hudson said her team's goals for the Owens Invitational are much larger than just winning.

"I would love to come back with a few wins for sure, but if we can go up there and learn together as a team then that's a win in my book," she said. "We've got to get better because of this weekend. We've got to figure out what we need to do to improve. That might not come in the form of a win. We might figure out more if we lose a match or two. That's okay. It's not fun. We don't like losses, but if we look at the big picture of the entire season and you kind of keep things in perspective for when it really matters — and that's at the end of the year — then a victory for me personally would be us going up there being competitive — whether that's winning or not — and learning and getting better as a team."