WAYNE, Neb. — After an eight-game stretch that included three top 20 opponents, the Wayne State volleyball team has leaned on senior leadership as they get ready for conference play.

Head coach Scott Kneifl said the team had a busy start to the season with their exhibition match in Memorial Stadium, the Concordia-Irvine Tournament in California, and the Colorado Premier Challenge in Denver.

“Playing those teams in the Premier especially this last week, I mean, they’re all top 25 teams,” Kneifl said. “We got hit in the mouth a couple of times and it was really good to see our kids bounce back.”

The team finished the tournament with a 3-1 record after losing in five sets to Concordia-St. Paul, the number one team in the country.

The team has been traveling to games since Aug. 30 in Memorial Stadium and sixth-year setter Rachel Walker said the long travel days will benefit the freshmen and sophomore’s on the team.

“We try to do a really good of making sure that we help them on the road, making sure they’re are staying focused on their school work and that kind of stuff, but for sure prepares us for the long run,” Walker said.

Junior middle hitter Maggie Brahmer said facing the tough competition has helped the team figure out the kinks and work on them during practices.

“We should always practice harder than we’re playing,” Brahmer said. "We should always, you know, be thinking more when we’re practicing than we are in games so that it can just come natural."

Kneifl said the leadership from the upperclassmen is going to be a key throughout the season after the Wildcats are coming off a regular season NSIC championship.

“The great thing about being a returning champion is that you’re the returning champion,” Kneifl said. “The bad thing is you have a really big target on your back. At the same time, that’s pretty exciting for us because we’re going to get everybody’s best game, we’re going to get to play a lot of quality volleyball this year, and it should really help us by the end of the year.”

The #3 ranked Wildcats begin NSIC play on Friday with a rematch of the championship Colorado Premier Tournament against #1 ranked Concordia-St. Paul at Rice Auditorium at 6:00 p.m.