The Elon University volleyball team desperately needed a spark.
Injuries plagued the team for much of the nonconference schedule. There were positives but also inconsistencies. And Colonial Athletic Association play was coming up on the slate.
Upon returning from an injury herself, redshirt-freshman setter Sydel Curry has given Elon a fresh look on offense during the past few weeks.
Curry, who missed all of last year with a knee injury, played in eight games early in the season before going down with an injury against Campbell University Sept. 13. She missed the next seven matches.
While she was out, junior setter Ana Nicksic also missed time because of an injury.
This meant junior Chelsea Rafetto, normally a defensive specialist, had to take over as setter.
Curry returned Oct. 2 against James Madison University, while Nicksic first saw action again Oct. 7 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
While Nicksic started at UNCG, Curry entered late in the second set and made an immediate impact. She’s started the last four games since and tallied 119 assists.
What’s been key is the way she mixes up sets, mostly to the pin hitters, midway through the match to confuse the opponent’s defense.
Curry said her strategy is look at the middles on the other side of the court.
““I also look at the setter in the front row,” she said. “They’re usually not a weaker blocker but a smaller blocker, so I go to where she is. It’s just trying to give the hitters opportunities to score.”
She’s perfected her technique of dumping the ball, which is when the setter goes up as if she were going to set the ball and instead attacks the ball.
Curry uses her peripheral vision to see where the opponent’s blockers are positioned and then decides on the fly whether to do it. She has recorded nine kills in the last four games using this tecnnique.
“If it’s there, I just go for it,” Curry said.
Elon head coach Mary Tendler applauded Curry’s effort, which she said has given the team several bright spots amid an nine-game losing streak.
“She’s a smart player on the court,” Tendler said. “When we tell her to go and set certain things and utilize certain things that are going to be effective versus the other team, she does it. She’s improving every day in practice. She’s a competitor out there.”
Curry’s play has given Elon’s hitters some rhythm, and they’re taking notice.
“She’s very resilient,” said sophomore middle blocker Ally Karle. “She’ll come off a weekend that’s not so great, come back and prove herself and everything she has.”