Lady Blue Devils set to hit the road to take on Marist School in semifinals

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 30, 2012 

The Columbus volleyball team is at home on the road.

It is used to traveling to play its matches, as it did for a large majority of the regular season. But that statement will have new meaning when it travels to Marist School for its Class AAAA semifinal today.

Despite being No. 2, the higher of the two seeds and, technically, the home team in its match, Columbus will play on the home court of its opponent, Marist, because the latter is hosting the four semifinalists.

But, despite an admission that the home crowd can help to an extent, Lady Blue Devils coach Donna Fleming doesn't expect things to be a whole lot different for her team.

"We've traveled all season," she said. "We're used to traveling, and we've played well. We expect to do the same thing (today)."

Fleming said that in a situation such as this, where Marist's fans will undoubtedly show up and show their support, it will be more important than ever for her team to do what it does best: Focus on itself.

"We have to block out distractions," Fleming said. "We have to focus on ball control and solid serving and those things. There's nothing you can do about the crowd. Just don't acknowledge it, and focus on playing your game well."

Seniors LeighEllen McCormick and Mikayla Swinson said the same, recognizing that there would definitely be a home-court advantage but saying there wasn't anything they could do about that.

"It'll be a rowdy crowd," Swinson said. "They're in the final four just like us, so they're going to be pumped. We just have to stay focused on ourselves. The focus is on our side of the net. If we can control what we can control, we'll be fine."

"We don't have home court, but I feel like we can stay energized and pumped up," McCormick said. "As long as we stay in position, we're fine. When you're focused on the match, you hardly notice the crowd."

One question about the home-court advantage is not so much about Columbus as it is about Marist.

How will the home crowd influence its level of play and emotion?

Swinson said that a home crowd does help in those regards.

"It can pump you up, definitely," she said. "And it keeps you pumped."

But Fleming stressed that matches can't be won on emotion alone.

"It's hard to win on emotion when you're playing best-out-of-five, you know?" she said. "At some point, it comes down to skills and consistency. And you don't have to blow them out. You just have to beat them by two points."

Fleming noted that it's her team's responsibility to make sure it is the one on the positive end of the battle over skills and consistency.

"This is what we've practiced since June 1 for," she said. "We can't be happy just being here. We need to trust our preparation and leave it all out on the court. We don't want any regrets."

And, despite the fact that Columbus beat Marist earlier this season (27-25, 25-19 on Aug. 29), the players are taking nothing for granted.

"These are totally different teams," Swinson said. "That was a long time ago."

"It was close when we played the first time," McCormick said. "We have to keep the energy and executive. If we don't make errors, they're beatable."

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