Volleyball falls in final of NCAA regional tournament

Volleyball (29-4) ended its season this past weekend by advancing to the championship of the NCAA Div. III regional tournament before losing a five game heart breaker to Wellesley.

The regional championship was the Sweet 16 round nationally, and only one other Williams volleyball team had advanced that far in the school’s history.

In the match, the second-seeded Ephs played top-seeded Wellesley close, winning the first and third games, but with the score tied at 11 in the final game, Wellesley reeled off four unanswered points to claim the match.

“It was a very close game,” said co-captain Diane Williams ’02, playing her last game as a member of the volleyball team. “We played our hearts out and we played very well as a group.”

Wesleyan was by far the more experienced club, led mostly by seniors and juniors, including the NESCAC player of the year, Alexis Keeler ’02.

“They have been in the same situation for something like five years, but we showed them we were not going to be a team they could roll over,” Williams said. “We won that first game, and we had them scared. It could have gone either way.”

Stats from the match were not available as of press time, but as several players emphasized, posting individual statistics from such a hard-fought match, where every player stepped up at least once in a clutch situation, they would not illustrate the team unity that the Ephs displayed. “Everybody played well,” said Williams. “Everybody stepped up at different times. The whole team was very united; that is what I will remember.”

To reach the finals match, Williams had first defeated third-seeded Wesleyan (25-6), the Ephs’ regular season rivals and the team Williams had narrowly beaten in the finals of the NESCAC tournament. Like the teams’ earlier matches, this one went to the wire, but the young Ephs prevailed in five games.

Wesleyan barely won the first game 28-30, with the Ephs unable to finish the clutch points when it mattered. However, the team responded to that challenge and showed its heart by winning the close points and claiming the second game 30-28.

Williams carried the emotions from those points into the third game, and it dominated it 30-14. Wesleyan eked out the fourth game 25-30, but with the match on the line, the Ephwomen showed they possessed the will to win, emerging the victors in the fifth game 15-9.”I was thrilled with how our team played,” said head coach Fran Vandermeer. “We never got flustered when we were down.”

Earlier in the week, the Ephwomen received honors from the NESCAC in the form of all-conference selections, and, in this match, the players showed why they deserved the praise.

Setter Meg Demment ’05 registered 50 assists and 22 digs defensively, and first team all tournament selectee Robin Young ’05 added 17 kills and 11 digs. Young’s companion in the serve-receive game, co-captain Carmel Lyons ’03, scored 10 kills and a team high 28 digs.

Middle blocker Joyia Chadwick ’05, who was named both NESCAC rookie of the year and to the first team all-NESCAC, posted a season-high 28 kills to go along with seven blocks for another dominating performance at the net. This past week, Chadwick shared NESCAC player of the week honors with her blocking partner Akilah Rogers ’04 for their excellence in helping the Ephs win the NESCAC championship.

Speaking about her final weekend as an Eph volleyball player, the popular senior floor leader Diane Williams sounded both reminiscent and whimsical, with both happy memories from the past season and hopes for the young team’s future.

“I could not have asked for a better team to play with my final season; I have been absolutely honored to play with them,” Williams said. “They make me love volleyball. It was a pretty big honor to go to NCAA’s; it was something I never would have expected. This group has some amazing years ahead of them.”