Volleyball (11-1) enjoyed a hard-fought victory this past Wednesday against NESCAC foe Trinity in the first home game of the season for the Ephs. Williams triumphed in five games (30-28, 30-26, 23-30, 24-30, 23-21).
Although Williams won the first two games, they were both hotly contested, and the Ephwomen were not in their usual rhythm. “We were a bit out of sync all evening,” said head coach Fran Vandermeer. “Our lack of communication turned easy plays into difficult ones.”
In the first game, the score was even at 15 when front-liners Joyia Chadwick ’05 and Robin Young ’05 came alive. Young, assisted by Meg Demment ’05, was the dominant striker for Williams, helping to keep the score even until it was 28-28. With the score tied, Chadwick scored the last two points of the first game with a strong kill and a block, giving Williams a narrow victory.
In the second game, Williams came out with great energy, taking an early lead on the front-row work of Chadwick, Young, and Akilah Rogers ’04. Co-captain Carmel Lyons ’02 served well throughout the early part of the match, along with lending a presence up front when Chadwick and Young were in the back row. Rogers delivered a clutch performance in the game, collecting several crucial saves down the stretch and the game-winning ace to give Williams the game at 30-26 and a 2-0 lead in the match.
With a 2-0 lead, the Ephs were confident, but Trinity proved a tough opponent and would take the next two games convincingly. “Trinity is a good team and they took it to us,” said Vandermeer.
In the third game, co-captains Diane Williams ’02 and Lyons tried to rally the obviously hustling team, but Trinity had adjusted their game and the Ephs were unable to find a rhythm. The Ephwomen scored some points up front as Demment mixed up the attack, but team mistakes and mental errors prevented the Ephs from rallying for the win as Trinity took the game 23-30.
In the fourth game, the Ephwomen again looked out of sync as Trinity consistently won the small points at the net. The game was tied at 7-7, but Trinity took the lead for good with a three-point rally as Williams was unable to finish its kills. All the players were clearly hustling and trying to bring the team back, but they were unable to find their team coherency, and Trinity pulled out the game 24-30.
The Ephwomen proved their resiliency and mental toughness, pulling out the final game in extra points, 23-21. The team brought an energy to the final game that the rest of the gym could feel as the crowd became very active drawing a delay of game, as well as a smirk from Trinity’s coach with its noise.
Williams jumped out to a lead in the fifth game on strong serving by Lyons and more precise net work from Young, Chadwick, and Demment. However, Trinity surged to an 8-11 lead as the Ephwomen were again unable to find the rhythm to finish their kills. Nonetheless, with a rally on Williams’ serve, active blocking from Rogers, and kills from Chadwick, the Ephs were able to pull the game even at 14. Trinity responded with a tip to take a game point lead at 14-15, but Young’s blocking and striking at the net pulled the game even at 15.
From this point on, the game turned into an emotional nail-biter, with every player coming through at least once in a clutch situation to keep the team in the game. The Ephwomen played their best team ball of the night during this stretch, pulling together and helping each other out when it mattered to keep the game even until 20-20.
With the score tied 20-20, the strength of Williams’ combination of senior leadership and youth shone though. Williams, who had been replaced on the front line by Sophie Hood ’04 for most of the night, stepped up with the game tied for her first kill of the night to make the score 21-20. The Ephwomen missed a kill to bring the game back to even at 21-21, but Young and Chadwick’s net dominance forced Trinity into an error to give Williams a 22-21 lead. With the game on the line, Williams stepped up on the serve, hitting a winner that Trinity returned out of bounds to give the Ephs the victory at 23-21.
The game-point stretch showed the value of team unity and intensity, as the Ephs overcame the emotional strain to pull out the victory. “From point 14-23, we had an intensity that we’d been lacking, and it made all the difference,” said Diane Williams. “In the end, all I can say is that it was the efforts of six players on the floor, with our great bench, playing with every bit of energy we had and then some.”
Looking down the road, the team has a match tomorrow against Smith before facing Trinity again in a series of NESCAC matches at Wesleyan that include the host school and Connecticut College. Volleyball is 3-1 in NESCAC play, and hopes to carry the momentum and experience from the last match into the rest of the season.
“Hopefully, our team will learn from that match and improve each day,” said Vandermeer. “If we do, good things will happen.”