Weary but ready, volleyball completes trying week

Volleyball (12-3; 2-1 NESCAC) was exhausted on Saturday. After completing a four-match, 15-game tournament at Brandeis, the ladies then had to find the strength to play one more time against Muskingum of Ohio (13-5).

The Ephwomen seized that final match on an extra-point rally that climaxed in an emotional, five-game victory for the weary squad.

In the nightcap, the Ephs came out strong to take the first game, but their fatigue soon set in, and the ladies dropped the second game closely and the third 13-30. The Ephwomen dug deep, however, and led by emotional warriors Meg Demment ’05, Robin Young ’05 and Akilah Rogers ’04, the team surged to a fourth-game win and finished off the match with a nail-biting fifth game, 16-14.

Both Demment and Young were doubtful to play in this final match, suffering assorted injuries and general fatigue.

“It looked for a while like Meg couldn’t play,” Head Coach Fran Vandermeer said. “But she insisted on playing, and in the end, we were lucky to have her.”

Luckily, Demment and Young did compete, and they came up huge offensively and defensively – especially in the clutch. Demment guided the offense with 48 assists and contributed four points through service aces, to go along with her 13 digs on defense.

Young displayed tremendous skill on both sides of the net en route to 23 digs and 21 kills, leading the squad in both the key defensive and offensive categories, a tremendously rare feat. Michelle Kron ’04 also chipped in on defense with 21 digs.

Net-player Akilah Rogers ’04 displayed tremendous skill in the clutch. She had a number of key blocks and kills down the stretch, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time, including a sequence of five straight kills without an error.

“I’m so proud of our effort,” Vandermeer said. “Our players were absolutely exhausted, and they were able to gut out some wins today.”

Earlier in the weekend, volleyball competed in the Brandeis Invitational Tournament, in which it won three of its four matches.

The tournament’s final match brought the Ephs their only loss of the weekend, a five-game heart-breaker against tournament champion Coast Guard (10-4). Coast Guard boasts a tremendous squad, with size and speed up front, and a probable All-American in Katie Johann.

Coast Guard’s talent alone almost brought them the match, particularly after the third game, which the Ephs lost dismally 12-30. However, the Ephwomen proved their determination when they rose up to take the fourth game 30-26 and force a fifth and deciding contest. Unfortunately, the Ephs came up a bit short in their comeback, and they dropped the fifth game 8-15 to the consistent Coast Guard.

Towering front-liner Joyia Chadwick ’05 led the Ephs in the match with 20 kills. Young chipped in 16 kills of her own in addition to a whopping 28 digs. Demment successfully guided the team with 46 assists and 12 digs.

Earlier in the day, the Ephs defeated the tournament’s hosts, the Brandeis Judges (4-8), in four games (30-21, 26-30, 30-26, 30-21). Williams had had defensive problems with the Judges in the past, but Vandermeer had the squad ready in this case.

The stat sheet, littered with digs and blocks from almost all players, stands as a testament to the Ephs’ defensive teamwork and selflessness. The trio of Demment, Young and the up-and-coming Sarah Hack ’06 contributed 15 digs apiece, with Demment also tallying 45 assists. Kron chipped in defensively with 13 digs to go along with a big offensive tally of nine kills and four service aces.

In addition to that victory, the Ephs opened the tournament with two dominating straight-game victories over the Babson Beavers (30-15, 30-19, 30-16) and the Monks of St. Joseph’s College of Maine (30-9, 30-21, 30-15).

These two victories showcased Williams volleyball at its best, with a balanced team effort built upon solid defense, hustle and dominating net play. These attributes were evidenced on the stat sheet, where no player had more than 10 kills and few errors were to be found.

Annie Denison ’06, who has made a huge and consistent contribution to the team in her first year, led the team with 10 kills while only committing one error. Rogers was also nearly flawless, as she scored six kills in a mere seven attempts.

Chadwick also had seven blocks in an afternoon in which she was not seriously challenged, and Demment had her usually solid performance with 26 assists.

The Monks did not have a prayer in the Ephs’ second victory, as St. Joseph’s could not even handle the Eph service game.

Demment led the team with an astounding 14 aces, while Young and Kron chipped in five and three aces, respectively. Hack led the team with 14 digs from the libero position, while Megan Saffold ’06 scored three kills, a season high, to complete the victory.

It was a “total team effort that saw everyone get into the game,” Vandermeer said of the victories. “The team executed very well and really took care of business.”

The Ephs travel this evening to Hartford to compete against the Bantams of Trinity (5-7).