Another weekend, another strong volleyball showing

Volleyball (6-1) enjoyed a successful weekend in NESCAC play this past Friday and Saturday, soundly defeating rivals Amherst and Middlebury. Unfortunately, the team also suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday, to Tufts in five games.

The Ephs had a match against Skidmore on Wednesday canceled due to the previous day’s tragedy in New York and Washington, D.C.

On Friday, the Ephs triumphed in their conference opener over Middlebury in four games. The Panthers entered the match 0-1, but they proved a tough opponent, as Williams fought to win the first two games 30-26 and 30-21.

The Ephwomen dropped the third game to Middlebury 26-30, but they showed their resilience with a fourth game thrashing, 30-17.

“We dominated play,” said head coach Fran Vandermeer. “Our serve receive passing was excellent, our defense was outstanding and our offense was on.”

Individually, outside hitter Robin Young ’05 led the team with 23 kills and 15 digs, middle blocker Joyia Chadwick ’05 had a team high nine blocks and added 13 kills, outside hitter and co-captain Carmel Lyons ’03 had 16 digs and 11 kills, and setter Meg Demment ’05 had 45 assists and six service aces.

Later in the day, Middlebury would lose to Tufts in three games, 30-12, 30-22, 30-19.

On Saturday, the Ephs first played Amherst, another NESCAC power who also entered the match undefeated with a 3-0 record. Amherst started the tournament 1-0 on their season and defeated Tufts and Hamilton in its first two matches, both times three games to zero.

Facing an unbeaten Amherst, which was also hosting the weekend’s action, the Ephs rose to the challenge and stomped their rivals in three straight games.

“Our defense shut down their top hitter,” said Vandermeer. “All six players maintained a constant defensive intensity and finished plays on offense with authority.”

Williams dominated the match statistically, with 53 team kills versus only 27 for Amherst.

Individually, Demment, 17 years old and starting setter in her first year, “ran the offense with precision,” according to Vandermeer.

Demment registered 43 assists and led the team with 17 digs defensively. Chadwick was strong in both facets of the game with eight blocks and a contest-high 19 kills.

Fellow first year standout Young had 12 digs and 15 kills, while Lyons also had 12 digs and 14 kills. Co-captain Diane Williams ’02 had 12 digs and Akilah Rogers ’04 had three service aces to go along with her two blocks and overall defensive effort.

For Amherst, no player had double-digit kills, and only one player, Missy Mordy, had double digit digs. The Jeffs followed the crushing loss at the hands of Williams with a three games to nil victory over Middlebury.

After the emotional victory over Amherst, the Ephwomen, for whom all six players had played every minute of every match because of injuries, were out of steam physically and mentally. They faced a fresh Tufts squad, who was playing their first match of the day. The Ephs lost the first game in the match to Tufts 22-30.

“The timing of the Tufts match was unfortunate,” said Vandermeer. “Out execution was off in the first game.”

“We had such an exciting victory over Amherst,” said Chadwick. “We weren’t mentally into it the first game.”

The task of trying to come back from that first setback would prove too much for the fatigued and youthful squad, which starts three first-years. The Ephs won the second and third game 30-24 and 30-20, but dropped a close fourth game 26-30, and were unable to regain momentum for the deciding fifth game, which they lost 11-15.

Individually, Chadwick registered 11 blocks, 11 kills, and 15 digs. Young had 18 kills and 14 digs. Lyons had 14 kills and 11 digs. Bennet dished out 42 assists, scored 5 kills, 5 aces and had 10 digs.

Despite the letdown to Tufts, who later in the day defeated Hamilton 3-0, the Ephwomen remain optimistic, and they view the loss as a learning experience.

“The Tufts loss will help us down the road,” said Vandermeer. Added Chadwick, “It was a lesson we needed to learn being a young team. It will comeback later in the season, and we will be stronger for it. . .we still considered it a successful weekend.”

The Ephs hope to repeat the success they experienced last year when they tied for the NESCAC championship and advanced to the ECAC Division III tournament.

First-years like Chadwick (who earlier in the week was named NESCAC player of the week because of her outstanding performance in last weekend’s Western New England College (WNEC) tournament) Bennet and Young are a big reason for optimism.

“It’s exciting to think of how much this young motivated team has room to improve,” said Vandermeer.

Vandemeer also looks for the team to receive a boost when Sophie Hood ’04, who has been battling early injuries, returns to help the blocking game, and other players become more familiar with her system.

The Ephs next play Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Westfield, and this coming weekend in the Springfield Classic Tournament.