Fifteen-match winning streak ends in an otherwise successful weekend for volleyball

Having already clinched the NESCAC regular season championship and the right to host the NESCAC tournament, volleyball (28-4, 9-1) hoped to continue its 15 game win streak through this weekend’s Hall of Fame Tournament and into Homecoming’s Little Three Championship. In three of its four matches, volleyball succeeded in this goal. However, it also dropped a five game heartbreaker to Wellesley (19-4) for its first loss since Sept. 29.

Williams and Wellesley faced each other in the second round Friday night, showcasing a match-up of arguably the two best teams in the Northeast, and a rematch of the contest that ended the Ephs’ NCAA Tournament run last season. Like that previous clash, this match went to five games, but tragically for the Eph faithful, as in that previous clash, Wellesley again was victorious.

The Ephwomen began the match ferociously, storming out to a 2-0 lead (30-24, 30-23), Wellesley managed to bounce back from that deficit, however, to take the final three games (26-30, 28-30, 11-15).

In the first two games, Williams played some of the finest defense it has played all year. “Our blocking in those two games was far and away the best of the season,” Head Coach Fran Vandermeer said. “We just came out ready for whatever Wellesley was going to give us.”

However, those two games were not enough to shut the door on Wellesley’s hopes, and when the match was close in those painful moments when either team could have seized the victory, Wellesley just had a little more gas in the tank.

Individually, Joyia Chadwick ’05 led the Ephs with 10 blocks, followed by middle blocker Akilah Rogers ’04 who had eight and standout Annie Denison ’06 who had five. Offensively, Meg Demment ’05 tallied 47 assists to go with 15 digs.

Denison and Robin Young ’05 led the team with 16 kills each, with Young also notching 18 digs. Chadwick finished with 12 kills, and opposite Michelle Kron ’04 chipped in another strong defensive effort with 11 digs.

“This was an extremely tough second round match,” Vandermeer said of the defeat, “We are a very good team and they are a very good team – that was proven tonight. I just hope we will get to face each other again down the road.”

On the bright side, the Ephwomen laid a whipping on their small college contemporaries Bates, Springfield and Colby in their other three matches of the weekend.

To begin the weekend, the Ephs crushed Bates in a three game sweep (30-28, 30-21, 30-19). In what Vandermeer called a “terrific team effort,” her squad’s stifling team defense contained Bates’ front-line, with the exception of a few spikes in the first game, almost all afternoon.

Williams’ front-line trio of Young, Chadwick, and Denison turned in another fine performance at the net, combining for 26 kills and generally overpowering and out-finessing the front-line of Bates.

Astoundingly, Chadwick and Young, who handle the bulk of the striking work only recorded one error between the two of them. Demment, in her consistent yet always fresh and entertaining way, guided the squad with 32 assists and nine digs. Middle blocker Kate Sauerhoff ’06 also contributed well and finished with five kills.

In another of the Ephs’ victories this weekend, the ladies rebounded from their tough loss Friday evening to Wellesley with a 10 a.m. sweep of the Springfield Pride (30-22, 30-17, 33-31). Despite the lightness with which volleyball’s dominance can make one treat their victories, Springfield is a very tough squad, featuring a league-leading five coaches. The sweep by Williams, and especially their gut-check 33-31 third game, says much more about the Ephs’ prowess than any lacking on the part of the Pride.

Demment again set the tone, notching 37 assists and five kills on offense to go along with 11 digs in a game in which she seemed to do a little bit of everything. Her trio of favorite hitters, Chadwick, Young and Denison, notched 38 kills. Young also covered the floor, notching 13 digs, while Chadwick covered the net with 5 blocks. Kron, emerging as a team leader on defense, led the team with 15 digs.

“This was a great win for us coming off a tough match last night,” Vandermeer said. “Springfield is a very good team that has encountered us in two of our best matches this year.”

In their final match of the weekend, the Ephs defeated Colby, a squad Williams might face in again soon in the NESCAC Tournament, in four games. The Ephwomen, a bit shaky after their emotional third game against Springfield, dropped the first game to Colby 25-30, but the team rebounded to sweep the rest of the games (30-23, 33-31, 30-14) and take the match 3-1.

The Ephs’ final game of the match and of the tournament was their most impressive. They began the match with a 14-0 run behind Denison’s serving and finished the Cougars off 30-14.

Individually, almost all of Williams’ players elevated their play in this one. Young led the team on both sides of the net, totaling 20-plus numbers in both kills and digs.

Demment again guided the squad with skill and poise and finished with an astounding 52 assists to go along with double-digit digs. Denison, in addition to her serving prowess, notched 16 kills and double-digit digs.

Kron also tallied more than 20 digs, and libero Sarah Hack ’06 joined the party with 18.

Above the individual statistics, what really made the match, and what has made this season such a successful one for volleyball, was the team effort the women displayed. As long as they play with guts and teamwork, the Ephs have the talent to compete in any match they play.

The Ephs will be tested this coming weekend, however, as after a midweek contest at Vassar, the Ephwomen return to Chandler Gymnasium for Homecoming. There, they face rivals Amherst and Wesleyan in the much anticipated Little Three weekend.