PRESQUE ISLE, Me. (WAGM) - The UMPI volleyball team got off to a rough start. They lost their first 8 matches of the season without winning a single set. They did play some of the better teams in DIII. One of my favorite sayings: Irons sharpens Iron. You need to play the best to improve the most. Since the first 8, UMPI has won 6 of 10. They've got six games left to try and make a run at a NAC championship.
"Basically everything we do is to get ready for the NAC conference which doesn't start for another couple weeks," Head Coach Jonathan Bowman said. "I'm just trying to develop the entire team so that we're deep enough so that we can do well in the conference and hopefully qualify for the NCAAs."
The Owls are 6-12 on the season, but they haven't played a single conference game yet. Going through an early season gauntlet is by design.
"I wanted to develop the mental toughness so that we'd be ready to play teams like that if we get to the NCAA tournament," Bowman said.
Laura Aroz is a senior on the team. The first year the Tucson native played, they only had 8 players and won just 5 games. This year, they have 13 girls on the squad.
"We've got some really strong hitters this year, we've got amazing setters, we've got some really great passers," Aroz said. "Basically we're just a really well rounded team this year, this is one of the best teams we've had."
One of those great hitters is Maddie Thweatt. She leads the team in kills, digs, and blocks. And like Aroz, she sees the depth of the Owls as a strength.
"We are a very deep team," Thweatt said. "We have a lot of people who play in all different positions so I think it's really good for us where we can throw somebody in anywhere on the court and they're able to play that position."
While playing a murderous schedule in the beginning of the season and losing a bunch of games can demoralize a team, Thweatt is buying in on the strategy.
"I'm a strong a believer that tough competition actually makes you play better," Thweatt said. "I think that it makes each team play better because you're playing people who are at a higher level than you."
Iron sharpens Iron. But Aroz says, they still have some sharpening left to do.
"I think we haven't really reached our potential yet I'm really excited to see what the rest of the season brings and what the girls are able to do this year, I'm excited to see what we do next," Aroz said.
UMPI opens up their conference play this weekend against Northern Vermont-Johnson, a team they beat twice last year.