Fernanda Bartels, Staff Writer

With conference games starting this weekend, the real competition begins now. I have been waiting for this time of the season since the beginning of August. We are at the point where we played enough games to become a cohesive unit, but we still have some adjustments to make.

We have improved in fundamental aspects, but we are not playing our best yet. We overcame some tough opponents, but the most amazing victories have yet to come. There is no better time during the season than now. It has been exciting especially due to the fresh start this season.

Even though we have been playing for over a month, I still have that cold feeling in my stomach when I step on the court for our first conference match. It’s amazing how that feeling doesn’t go away even after many years of volleyball.

Besides the excitement of a first game, it is also good to play our rivals. There is a big difference between playing the James Madison University Dukes and the Wright State Raiders.

In my collegiate career, I have played against Wright State once. My expectations for Wright State were based on the information our assistant coach gave us before the game.

When we play JMU, on the other hand, my expectations change. We have history with them; we have played them several times before. Between wins and losses, we followed their development as a team, as they followed ours. We know their style of play and they know ours. Knowing the opponent is what makes conference games fun. The level of the play becomes more detail-oriented. Strategies take place and every season we face new challenges.

Impressions aside, some teams do not meet the expectations we had for them. That happens because a team can change a lot after just one season.

Main players graduate, emerging rookies stand out and key injuries unfold as the season progresses. A team can also look different with the same players. That is the case with our team.

Along with the four freshmen, we have a set of returning players that are the core of our team. Although the core is the same from last season, the team looks different.

We are more mature and focused this season. We prepared ourselves for this moment during the spring, the summer and preseason. Now it’s time to see whether it paid off.