Volleyball goes 2-2 at invite

Volleyball (4-4, 1-0 in the NESCAC) picked up three wins and two hotly contested losses this week. The team opened conference play successfully with a three-set win over Hamilton last Tuesday. The women then spent the weekend competing in the Brandeis Invitational.

The team opened the invitational on Friday with a three-set win over Smith, but the women failed to capitalize on the momentum when they later lost a close match to host Brandeis. Following a similar pattern last Saturday, the Ephs secured an easy win over Babson before falling in a non-conference contest to Tufts later in the day.

Similar to the problems of last week, the Ephs were plagued again this weekend by issues of health and consistency. “It was difficult this weekend because we were fighting through a lot of injuries,” Head Coach Fran Vandermeer said. “We also struggled to maintain a consistent defensive effort, and that is what will win us these close matches.”

The sophomores are currently the team’s standout players. Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 was named to the All-Tournament team after a weekend of solid offense at the net. Eleanor Levine ’11, setter Emily Avis ’11 and Kate Anderson ’11 were also instrumental in the successes of the week. The team will need to rely on these younger players to win matches over the next few weeks as other team members continue to heal from injuries. Also due to these injuries, Vandermeer was forced to shuffle through lineups all weekend.

“It is still very early in the season, and we are trying lots of lineups to get over this little hump,” Vandermeer said. “As of right now, the biggest hurdle is that our go-to hitters are young players who are still trying to get comfortable in their positions.”
As they move forward, the Ephs will continue to rely on the leadership of co-captains Riki McDermott ’09 and Chelsea Kubal ’10. McDermott showed grit and determination by playing through a sprain on Saturday morning to post eight digs, six kills and five blocks in the win over Babson. Kubal fought hard all weekend on defense and also stepped up to attack. In the tough loss to Brandeis, Kubal tried to rally the troops by posting 13 digs, 10 kills and two blocks. She followed up with another strong performance on Saturday by posting another 11 digs in the loss to Tufts.

After a very challenging weekend, the Ephs can take comfort in their 1-0 conference record after a victory over the Continentals in their first match at home last Tuesday. The women controlled much of the match with the potent offense provided by Ballon-Landa, Levine, Alisha Cahlan ’10 and Whitney Hitchcock ’10, as well as the steady defense of Kubal and Melissa Pun ’10. The win will help the team as it tries to match the incredible feats it earned last year, including impressive season and conference records (28-8, 9-1), the NESCAC championship and a subsequent bid to the NCAA’s.

The women traveled to Union last night, but the results came in too late for publication. The Ephs will be on the road again on Friday for two conference matches against Conn. College and Wesleyan, and a third exhibition match against Trinity.