Volleyball starts off the season undefeated

The Williams College volleyball team continued to roll along this past weekend, dispatching four conference rivals. The team improved to a very impressive 8-0 record with wins over host Hamilton (3-1), Wesleyan (3-2), Connecticut College (3-0), and Trinity (3-1) in a NESCAC Quad in Clinton, NY.

The outcome of this Quad, despite being so early in the season, may prove to be pivotal due to new NESCAC regulations.

Senior Co-Captain Carolyn Ryan ’01 said, “This weekend was very important to us, since only one NESCAC team can go to NCAA’s under the new rules.”

Williams had not even dropped a single game all year under new coach Fran Vandermeer until the Hamilton match, which the Ephs went on to win in four: 15-11, 9-15, 15-3, and 15-7, putting their record at 5-0 heading into Saturday.

Little Three rival Wesleyan, who came into the 11:00 AM match sporting a 5-1 record, proved to be the Ephs’ most difficult match to date. After Williams won the first set 15-9, Wesleyan exploded, taking the next two games 15-4 and 15-3, respectively.

Unfazed, Williams responded by pulling out the fourth game 15-13 and the fifth game 15-12 to take the match. For Wesleyan, the loss was part of a rough day of competition: they entered the Quad 5-0 only to narrowly lose all three matches 3-2. For Williams, however, it was the closest to losing they would come all day.

Connecticut College, perennially one of the weaker teams in the conference, did manage to push the Ephs to a tiebreaker in the second game, but Williams otherwise cruised 15-4, 16-14, and 15-6. Connecticut College would finish the tournament with a disappointing 1-3 record.

The final match of the Quad was a 5:00 PM showdown with Trinity. The team could certainly feel the tension surrounding the match as Coach Vandermeer led the Lady Ephs against the team that she had coached for the previous four years. “Trinity was definitely a grudge match for us, since we were playing against Coach Vandermeer’s former team,” said Ryan. Williams started out slowly, dropping the first game 12-15. After that, however, they turned up their intensity and stormed on to victory, winning the remaining games 15-5, 15-7, and 15-5, leaving Trinity at 3-3 overall for the year.

Williams’ eight game, season-opening winning streak is their longest since their stellar 1998 year, during which they captured a spot in the illustrious NCAA tournament.

“The chemistry and work ethic of this team is unlike any other I’ve been on. As a team, we’re in better court shape. Coach Vandermeer runs every practice with game-like intensity,” said four-year veteran and Co-Captain Shekinah Cohn ’01. Their start also marks a significant improvement over last season, where the team didn’t seem to be able to put it all together as they only were able to manage a mediocre 19-17 record.

The team’s fast start can be attributed to the level of intensity that the Ephs have carried onto the court every game. In addition to strong play by several upperclassmen, Williams has also received valuable contributions from some of the younger players on the team. Center Carmel Lyons ’03, has been especially impressive. This past weekend, “Carmel really hustled to get every pass,” said Ryan.

The Ephs will put their unbeaten streak on the line tonight at 7:00 pm in a home match at Chandler Gym against non-conference foe Westfield. Later in the week looms the prestigious MIT invitational, taking place Friday and Saturday in Cambridge, Mass.

The tournament at MIT will surely be an important test for the Ephs as they will face some very tough competition. Cohn said, “MIT is going to be huge. MIT is always a big weekend, and we’re very excited to build off of last weekend’s success.”

With Mike Black and Jon Briggs Contributing