As the Samford volleyball team begins its foray into conference play, the Bulldogs have experienced their fair share of ups and downs.
The Bulldogs are 2-2 in conference play with an overall record of 3-12. Both conference losses occurred at road games; while both victories came at home in the Pete Hanna Center. This Wednesday’s match against Mercer will be Samford’s last leg in a brutal three-game road trip.
The rocky pre-conference schedule was likely due to the strength of schedule. The Bulldogs played against four Power 5 programs, including Clemson, Florida State and LSU, and the team went a porous 1-10 during that stretch. Although playing tough competition early can prepare a team for its own conference schedule, it appears that the Bulldogs are still slow to recover from non-conference play.
Despite the slow start, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Samford squad.
Kenya McQuirter and Lauren Deaton — first and second in kills on the team, respectively — continue to pace the Bulldog squad. In addition, Kayla Keshock has continued her dominant run at Samford, as she leads the team with 423 assists. The next closest player in this statistic is Ally Durban with 43.
The Bulldogs have also been prolific when it comes to service aces. Emily Naubert, Kate Morgan, Lauren Deaton, Kayla Keshock and Andie Salasky have at least 11 service aces already. Capitalizing off of their serving dominance could be the key from rebounding to a slow start in the SoCon. If the Bulldogs can dominate sets early by racking up aces, it could likely lead to better results in the win-loss column.
However, the Bulldogs are running out of time to turn their season around. The season has already reached the midway point, with the SoCon Tournament beginning Nov. 19. If the Bulldogs want to continue their dominance in the Southern Conference, they have to adjust quickly. This is especially pertinent for the Bulldogs’ defense, which ranks last in the SoCon for blocks per set (1.4) and second-to-last in digs per set (13.3).
There is no denying that 2021 has been a rough start for the Samford Bulldogs. A record that is well below .500 and a mediocre start to conference play has put the Bulldogs in a tough spot to continue their once-dominant run in the SoCon.
Yet, if any coach in the SoCon were to lead a team back from mediocrity, it would be Bulldog head coach Keylor Chan, who has won four conference titles in just six years.
Samford’s next match will be against the Mercer Bears in Mercer, Georgia on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs will then return home to play Furman on Friday at 7 p.m.