WEST PLAINS, Mo. • The College of Southern Idaho volleyball team tried to squeeze as much as it could into its allotted one hour of pre-tournament practice time on Wednesday.
The Golden Eagles had plenty of company, as at least six of the 15 other schools were present. Only one of those other six was practicing alongside the Golden Eagles, and nobody was watching the College of Central Florida.
CSI was the main attraction. That comes with the territory of being labeled the team to beat going into the tournament.
The Golden Eagles had had only an hour to put on a show, but one that wouldn’t give away everything they do. It was a crisp practice, and considering the 19-hour trip a day before, was actually pretty good in terms of quality.
Maximizing that on-court time, and giving your opponents something to think about, can go a long way toward getting one-up mentally on the field.
Because nothing is normal at the national championships, everything comes down to an edge. CSI has one on paper, both being the No. 1 overall seed and having seen five of the other teams in the field – although four of those are on the other side of the bracket. CSI could face Missouri State-West Plains, which the Golden Eagles beat in Salt Lake City earlier in the second, in tonight’s second round if both teams win their first-round matches.
One team the Golden Eagles haven’t seen is their first-round opponent. Faulkner State (Ala.), the lowest-seeded team in the field, either couldn’t or wouldn’t swap film with CSI. Though the No. 1 team in the country shouldn’t have much trouble, it’s still sometimes better to know what you’re up against than fly blind. The quick cram session came in about 20 minutes on Wednesday morning — while CSI took its team picture and prepped for its hour on court, Faulkner was practicing.
In the end, this match is just like all the others, known opponent or unknown: start fast, put pressure on the other team, see how they respond.
CSI hopes this is the first of four tests passed. If that goes to plan, it means the Golden Eagles will hoist an unprecedented 10th championship trophy — nobody else has more than eight.
Mission X is full steam ahead.
David Bashore will live blog from today’s game at Magicvalley.com or follow him on Twitter at @TNBashore.