Texas Tech’s volleyball team went 0-3 in last weekend’s tournament as sophomore setter, Alex Kirby was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her foot hours before their first game.
Sophomore transfer from Arizona State, Tatum Rohme, stepped up to take most of the reigns on offense in Kirby’s absence. In Tech’s 3-1 win against Northern Illinois on Monday, Rohme recorded 43 assists.
Head coach Tony Graystone said he was not pleased with the situation the team was put in or how they responded last weekend.
“I think the hardest part was just how we handled the whole situation and I don’t have a good answer for it,” Graystone said about Kirby’s injury. “It was a bad situation that we weren’t expecting, and it just put us on our heels from the minute we landed.”
Kirby ended up with a stress fracture and is out for four weeks, Graystone said.
So, you’re like totally not expecting (the injury) and (it’s) lot worse than we thought it was gonna be,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it right, we didn’t regroup the right way.”
The Red Raiders bounced back from their three losses with a 3-1 win against Northern Illinois on Monday. Graystone said he was happy with the team for the way they played against Austin Peay.
“We did regroup after Austin Peay,” he said “I felt like Monday’s match was much better, we looked like ourselves again and there were a lot of positives that came out of it.”
Graystone said the team’s group of setters’ talent performed well as he focused on the struggles Rohme had in her first starts.
“This is the group we’ve got, and we like that group, they’re talented we put this group together for a reason and it’s Tatum (Rohme’s) turn,” Graystone said.
Rohme can improve upon her other starts as she fills the void of Kirby, Graystone said.
“It’s just her comfort zone, honestly, and feeling like she’s got room to be herself and if she makes a mistake, she makes a mistake, that’s what players do,” Graystone said. “I think there is so much pressure on her and she’s put pressure on herself, and (Kirby’s injury) was just a bad situation that didn’t get better.”
Freshman Caitlin Dugan said she was frustrated from the winless weekend.
“Definitely not being able to pull together in the end,” Dugan said. “We played Northwestern and the sets we won, we beat them by four points, but the sets we lost, we lost by two (points). So, I think the most frustrating part was just not finishing.”
Rohme’s court presence and competitiveness on the court was impressive, Dugan said as she mentioned the connection between the two. The two played high school volleyball 15 minutes from each other in Arizona and were involved with club volleyball together.
“(Rohme) and I always had this competitive atmosphere because her mom coached in my club, so we have always been in practices together,” Dugan said. “I love her attitude on the court, she’s a really good teammate, she’ll fight to the death to get to the goal we want to reach.”
With the two on the same team, Dugan said she was happy to be on the same team as Rohme.
“It’s definitely nice to have her on our side of the court because she can be a little tricky sometimes,” Dugan said. “She’s one of those people that can get in your head on the other side court without even saying anything. So, it’s like cool to have that attitude on my team instead of against my team.”
Dugan said the team adjusted to Rohme’s offense and the difference in setters.
“It depends, for us, it kinda took the whole weekend, just because that trust really came in. We trust (Rohme) no doubt, but were just so used to the system that Kirby runs, someone new coming in, even though they’ve been trained the same way, it’s still a different person,” Dugan said. “It’s normally just when the team buys into everything, about her, about what the coaches are saying.”
The turn around the team had in Monday’s win against NIU grew the Red Raiders’ confidence, senior Kylie Rittman said.
“Obviously with the win, you overlook some of the smaller details, so that’s basically what I want to get back to,” Rittman said. “Not worrying about every little emotion we have and just winning, so I think that last (game) was good for us to feel a little tension release.”
Rohme has the skill to be a starter on for the Red Raiders, but she just needs to gain the confidence to play at her full potential, Rittman said.
“Being a setter is tough because, personally, I think it’s just having relationships with your hitter,” Rittman said. “Obviously, for myself, the skill part of (setting) is lacking because I don’t do it often. But Tatum (Rohme) has so much talent that I think for her it’s just the relationship part of it and just getting confidence.”
The Red Raiders will travel to Las Vegas to participate in the UNLV Invitational as Rohme will fill the void of Kirby. Tech will play Pacific and UNLV on Friday and then finish off the tournament against Idaho on Saturday.