Palka, Griffs find positives in losing weekend in Golden Griffin Invitational

By Nathan Barillari
Managing Editor

The Canisius College volleyball team fell to Hartford and Cleveland State, 3-1 and 3-0, respectively on Saturday to fall to 0-4 in non-conference play to start the season.

In spite of a poor record to start the season, senior Sydney Palka knows that these games are playing their part in helping the Griffs prepare for conference play.

“Every game you make little mistakes, but the whole time, we came back ready to fight for the next game,” she explained. “Last year, it wasn’t the same team – I don’t think we would’ve come back fighting after so many losses and it takes a lot of character to get hit on the chin so many times…and come back out of it.

“If I can say one thing about this weekend it’s the fact that we never stop fighting and nobody got down on themselves. We just never stopped…we did a lot good things this weekend and it comes from the heart and the character that we showed. I’m ready to work with these guys tomorrow in the gym; I really am because I’ll go at it every day for these girls.”

One of the biggest goals of the weekend for the Griffs was to stay both competitive and positive against teams that provide stronger competition than their MAAC opponents – a task that Palka admits can be difficult at times.

“It does at times, but you gotta always think of the players around you,” she said. “I told coach Hummel, ‘who do I want to be to these freshmen? Who do I want to be to my sophomore setter [Grace Streicher]?’ I want to be somebody that’s always positive…so I think it is, but I think you have to keep it in perspective: this is preseason…it was exciting, everybody got a lot of playing time…our freshmen, I’ve got to keep a smile on my face for them all the time.”

“We’re trying to [focus] away from the score,” Hummel added. “I’m disappointed in our demeanor and lack-luster play against Hartford…the effort and energy and passion was way better [against Cleveland State].”

While she’s been impressed with how the team has played thus far, Palka admits that it has some things to improve on for this weekend.

“Communication definitely is one of our big things,” she said. “Keep talking to each other; during plays, before plays…we need to get our passing involved, our setting and our offense really crisp in order to beat teams in our conference.

“We’re just gonna keep putting our nose to the grind stone, just keep going…and getting our freshmen involved and feeling the vibe. They shouldn’t think that they’re freshmen, they should think that they are great players for us.”

“I think we need to mentally be ready to face adversity,” Hummel said. “We had some lineup changes due to an injury [freshman Katlyn Tyler woke up with a stiff back] and we have a young team and now I realize that’s something I need to prepare them for weekly, as well.”

When asked about Tyler’s back, Hummel said that she wasn’t sure the severity of it just yet.

“I just know it wasn’t worth it if it was just a tweak to play her because it’s non-conference,” Hummel explained.

As one of four seniors, Palka has naturally taken an increased leadership role, but believes that the team doesn’t have much ground to make up with this year’s team.

“We decided that Ally [Severyn] and Sam [Good] were great, great players…it was more about Ally getting a good dig or Sam getting a good kill versus us winning,” she explained. “I’ll take the girl that’s maybe not as good and take a whole heart instead of half of one. I think it was a big loss skill wise, but we lost nothing in heart and nothing in team.”

“I think one positive I can take [out of today] is Syd Palka’s leadership. She did a great job; score didn’t matter to her,” Hummel added. “She stayed in our process and she was a really positive energy on the court.”

Hummel and the Griffs are accustomed to starting their season on the road and having their first home game start in the conference, something that Palka expresses can be nerve-racking.

“We come back home [after preseason] and it’s like ‘oh wow, we’re home’ and everybody’s all uptight. You’ve got so many fans out here, all your best friends, your boyfriends, your ex-friends,” Palka explained eccentrically. “You have all these people watching you and everybody freezes up. It could be great or terrible but it’s always very tight…so I think you get that out [by playing preseason at home]…we’re ready to go now.”

“I think it was a huge advantage, the kids were training for three weeks away from family and friends,” Hummel said. “We didn’t have to travel, it’s our first week of school — it should be a benefit.”

In the Hartford game, Hummel made the decision to make senior Jessica Warner the libero following the second set, taking the place of regular libero Emily Litwin.

“Just trying to mix something up because we weren’t getting what we needed from Emily Litwin and I thought possibly a switch would help,” Hummel said. “[Litwin’s] our libero. In the non-conference, I may do things like that.”

The Griffs will travel to Morgantown, W. Va. to take part in the Mountaineer Invitational on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10. They will play Fordham and West Virgina on Friday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively and Norfolk and Navy on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

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