Coming off a 1-2 week that ended with its first MIAA loss at Truman State, the Northwest Missouri State volleyball team plays in its third and final tournament of the season today and Saturday at the Washburn Lady Blues Fall Classic in Topeka Kan.
The Bearcats take on Southern Nazarene and Southwestern Oklahoma Friday before matches against East Central (Okla.) and Harding Saturday.
All four of Northwest's tournament opponents reside in the Great American Conference and are part of the same Central Region. Northwest has gone 2-2 at each of its first two tournaments in Florida and Rolla, but the competition at this one isn't quite as good.
That should allow the Bearcats to finish 3-1 or even 4-0 on the weekend.
"If I have to say historically, the GAC isn't comparable to the MIAA, but I do know that Harding is usually pretty good," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Amy Phelps. "I think it could be a good weekend for us to get some wins and get our confidence back together as a team and then collectively be able to step up to those challenges."
Tied for third in the MIAA, Northwest (9-6, 5-1) has a better record than any of its first three opponents who are a combined 17-32.
Southwestern Oklahoma (5-11, 3-2) has already been swept by Missouri Western, a team Northwest beat in four sets.
Northwest's fourth match with Harding is likely to be their most challenging.
The Bison (13-4, 6-0) are tied for first place in the Great American Conference with Arkansas Tech.
They've gone 1-1 against the MIAA this year, sweeping Missouri Southern and losing in four to Emporia State.
"Whenever you play three matches ahead of that in 24 hours, it's just a mental match," said Phelps.
"I think in the sense that everyone is just tried. We have to be able to step up and be the better team and be more consistent. I think consistency is something we're looking to solve. We're still young, so we just have to practice and stay aggressive, but find consistency within aggressiveness."
With either three or four wins, the Bearcats would attain their best record of the season.
The Bearcats won their first five MIAA matches before losing to Truman State in three lopsided games Saturday.
Northwest hit in the negative's for the match, dropping them to 11th in the conference at .160 for the season.
"I'm glad we have a longer week this week because we ran really go after a lot more things we need to work on team-wise," said Phelps. "Sometimes when you have three games in a week you don't have time to do anything other than prepare for the next opponent. This week has been a lot about connecting practice with what happens in the game."
Page 2 of 2 - The Bearcats still lead the conference in aces per set with 1.65, with freshman Dallas Gardner supplying a conference-high 25 service aces.
Sophomore Brooke Bartosh ranks fourth in the MIAA and first on the team in kills with 181. Tori Beckman is the conference leader in digs with 5.59 per set.