Volleyball goes 3-1 on West coast trip

Volleyball (6-1; 0-0 in the NESCAC) returned to campus exhausted late Sunday night from a weekend tour of the west coast in California, where it represented Williams against some of the best squads in the nation.

There, the Ephwomen won three of their four matches, with their only loss coming at the hands of national powerhouse Cal-Hayward.

The Ephs began the tournament with a balanced victory over Cal-Lutheran (3-6) in straight games (30-24, 30-20, 30-22). The Ephwomen won that match with the same formula that had carried them to two wins in the Williams Tri-Match last week: a combination of strong and energetic team defense with consistent setting from Meg Demment ’05 and devastating kills from Robin Young ’05, Joyia Chadwick ’05 and Annie Denison ’05.

Defensively, Chadwick led the team at the net with five blocks, while her sophomore compatriot Young guarded the floor with 12 digs. Young’s energy in all aspects of the game earned her praise from Head Coach Fran Vandermeer.

“Robin’s intensity on offense and defense is contagious to the team as a whole,” Vandermeer said. “We really feed off of her all around.”

Completing the team’s defensive efforts, Rachel Ricucci ’06 and Sarah Hack ’06 contributed 10 and eight digs, respectively.

Offensively, the trio of Chadwick, Young and Denison amassed an impressive 38 kills on the match. Demment set them up consistently and finished with 43 assists.

“Annie was on fire on offense when we really needed her to be,” Vandermeer said. “Her play enabled Meg to vary the offense. [It was] a great team victory, with great contributions from all around.”

After its first win on the West coast, Williams carried an undefeated record into the match with Cal-Hayward. Sadly, against that leviathan of a squad, which had beaten the defending national champion and top-ranked Laverne last week, the Ephwomen had their bubble burst, losing in three straight games, (17-30, 8-30, 19-30).

While Williams hopes one day to compete at the level of a national program like Hayward, currently, being led mostly by players with a year or less of experience at the collegiate level, the Ephs are just not that caliber of team.

Cal-Howard’s ball-control skills are “the best I’ve seen at the Div. III level,” Vandermeer said, and the team is without question stronger than any Williams will face on the East coast.

Despite any of that, the team can hold its head high as it stood its ground and played well in defeat, showing guts and determination in the face of adversity, and most importantly, the Ephwomen did not quit.

“At this point in the season, we were simply overmatched,” Vandermeer said. “They took advantage of our inexperience, but I’m really proud of the way our team didn’t give up. By not throwing in the towel and keeping our focus on the match despite the score, we will be able to reference this match later in the season as a positive learning experience.”

The next day, the Ephs recovered from that tough loss and defeated two very strong clubs, Whittier (3-5) and host Pomona-Pitzer (3-5), to finish the tournament 3-1.

Against Whittier, the Ephs emerged victorious from a five game gut check (33-31, 24-30, 20-30, 30-28, 15-12).

“We didn’t execute at a high level,” Vandermeer said. “Luckily, we pulled together as a team and were able to fight through our down times and escape with a good, solid win.”

Although the triumph was unquestionably a team affair, Demment, the always reliable setter, deserves special praise for a match in which she tallied 57 assists, 15 digs, and four block assists.

As in the earlier matches, the trio of Chadwick, Young and Denison were the primary beneficiaries of Demment’s work, tallying a total of 55 kills and keeping Whittier’s defense out of synch with a balanced attack.

On defense, the Ephwomen found clutch hits in several do-or-die situations. Statistically, Young and Chadwick came up with 28 digs and 10 blocks, respectively.

Completing the team’s efforts, opposite Michelle Kron ’04 garnered 17 digs, while Hack chipped in 10.

“Overall it was just nice to see the girls pull together as a team and come away with a hard fought victory,” Vandermeer said.

After that grueling, emotional win, Williams seemed in for another war of a match against Pomona when they dropped the first game 25-30. However, the Ephwomen banded together as a team in the clutch and seized the second game 31-29.

With the momentum of the match on their side, the Ephs then clamped down on defense to take the last two games 30-27 and 30-17.

The trio of Chadwick, Young and Denison again carried the load on offense, dominating the net while amassing 48 kills. However, the match was really won in the minor areas that separate the good teams from the great. For example, Demment, while feeding her athletic front-liners 52 assists, served five aces as well, and Young also hit several intimidating serves that kept Pomona off balance.

On defense, Chadwick had six blocks and dominated the net. Young patrolled the back area and led the team with 23 digs, while Hack and Kron had 14 and 13 digs, respectively, in a balanced team defensive effort.

In addition to their West coast matches, volleyball also celebrated a victory in the middle of the week over Skidmore (3-5) in straight games (30-27, 30-23, 30-24). Though they trailed 4-1 and 16-11 in the first game, the Ephs were able to take control of the match once their offense got on track.

Offensively, the Thoroughbreds could not handle the striking of Chadwick, Young and Dennison. The trio combined for 46 kills on the night, and Chadwick by herself scored four straight kills. Additionally, middle blocker Akilah Rogers ’04 also played strongly at the net, particularly when the squad was struggling to get started in the first game.

In all, volleyball had four victories against tough competition in what was a very successful week.

The experience gained out west will come in handy as the Ephwomen spring into NESCAC conference play this weekend at Hamilton.