Volleyball captures Little III championship with victories over Amherst, Wesleyan

Volleyball (25-3) enjoyed another undefeated week, triumphing against Vassar on Wednesday in its final home game of the year and crushing NESCAC foes Wesleyan and Amherst over the weekend to win the Little III Tournament.

Against Vassar, the Ephwomen did not drop a game, dominating the match 30-24, 30-17 and 30-21.

Vassar could not handle the Williams front line. The blockers, mainly Joyia Chadwick ’05 and Akilah Rogers ’04, did not allow Vassar to initiate an offense, and that defensive prowess allowed the Ephs offense to work in a rhythm.

“Our team played together very well; we played well defensively,” said head coach Fran Vandermeer. “Our blockers touched a lot of balls and finished plays with authority.”

Vandermeer commended co-captain Diane Williams ’02, who enjoyed her final home game Wednesday. In the third game, Diane put down a monster kill to give the Ephs a match point. Vandermeer then substituted for her floor leader, allowing her to experience the fans’ obvious appreciation of her effort and dedication as she came to the bench to a thunderous applause.

“It was a nice night for Diane to close out her home regular season career,” said Vandermeer. “She had a very inspired performance.”

“We played well, it’s always fun,” said Williams. “I’m going to miss playing here.”

In the weekend action, the Ephs dominated the Little III Tournament against arch-rivals Wesleyan and Amherst, not dropping a game in either match.

Wesleyan is the number one seed for this upcoming weekend’s NESCAC tournament, which will decide which team advances to NCAA postseason play. The Ephs had lost to Wesleyan earlier in the year in a five game nail-biter and Wesleyan had already beaten Amherst earlier in the day 3-1.

Against Williams, those gaudy facts meant nothing, as the confident Ephs stepped up at the important times to beat the Cardinals (30-21, 34-32, 31-29).

“We didn’t touch many balls against Wesleyan’s middle blockers the last time we played them,” said Vandermeer. “But in this game, Akilah [Robers] in the front row was a force at the net, along with Joyia [Chadwick].”

Setter Meg Demment ’05 drew praise for her offensive performance, augmenting her usual play-making abilities as setter with kills on the wings.

“We generally do not recognize Meg in the offensive category. But today she was one of our offensive weapons, and that was terrific for us,” said Vandermeer. “She had five kills out of six swings, and a lot of those were from passes that were tight to the net – Meg is consistently quicker to the ball than opposing blockers.”

Robin Young ’05 and co-captain Carmel Lyons ’03 also proved critical in the victory with their service-receive passing.

Statistically, Chadwick again dominated at the net with 18 kills and three blocks. Lyons chipped in 11 kills and 17 digs on defense. Young led in digs with 20, rounding out another superb all-around performance with nine kills and four aces off her stellar jump-serve.

Against Amherst, the Ephs faced the squad with whom it shares the number two seed for the NESCAC tournament. The Lord Jeffs had lost to Wesleyan earlier in the day and seemed determined not to go home winless. However, Williams won the match in three straight games (31-29, 30-26, 30-28).

Amherst began the match with intensity leading the first game 13-4 and 27-33. But the Ephs’ superior heart and will prevailed, as they tied the game at 27, seized the lead 29-28, and closed out the game 31-29.

Coach Vandermeer was justifiably proud of her young squad for the victory against its highly regarded rival.

“Both game one and game three were come-from-behind victories,” said Vandermeer. “Our team showed an incredible amount of courage and heart, and the wins were well deserved.” Chadwick led the team in the match, both on defense with her critical blocks and digs and on offensive with her monster kills.

Lyons and Young also proved a potent duo with their defense. Their service-receive passing is the engine of the Ephs attack, stopping the other team kills and initiating the Eph’s offense.

“Carmel and Robin are just taking kills away from other teams,” Vandermeer said. “It is something that just deflates the other team, because they are hitting the ball as hard as they possibly can, and we are digging it with ease.”

Lyons posted 19 digs and Young 16. Lyons added 10 kills, and Young, consistently the squad’s most consistent hitter, led the team with 22 kills. Young also scored four aces on her team-energizing jump-serve.

Vandermeer was proud of her squad for the heart, determination, and team unity it showed over the past week. With victories over the two strongest foes it shall face at this weekend’s NESCAC tournament at Middlebury, the team seems to be peaking at the right time.

“I am really proud of our team for how mentally tough we were, and how hard we worked together to get these wins,” said Vandermeer. “We are running on most of our cylinders right now – our offense and defense are running with precision. We earned these victories, and I’m looking forward to NESCACs next weekend.”