Volleyball rebounds with 2 NESCAC wins

After a rough start to the week, volleyball (6-6, 1-1 in the NESCAC) rebounded on Saturday with two wins at the NESCAC Weekend. The team defeated Trinity and Wesleyan after dropping a match to Conn. College on Friday and to Union on Sept. 16.

The women came out firing on all cylinders Saturday, leading off the morning with a 3-0 shutout over Trinity in three sets and finishing with a 3-1 win against Wesleyan. Riding the momentum of the morning win, the Ephs tore into the Cardinals for a victory in conference play. Williams worked together and all contributed to a very balanced win with consistent defense and efficient offense.

Led by the solid play of Emily Avis ’11, the Ephs gathered momentum and confidence in each of their games. Co-captain Chelsea Kubal ’10, Whitney Hitchcock ’10, Kate Anderson ’11, Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 and Aly McKinnon ’12 all played crucial roles in those double wins.

“On Saturday we worked into a consistent defensive groove,” co-captain Riki McDermott ’09 said. “We definitely found the team chemistry that we have been searching for. These were the turn-around games we needed. We were finally able to breathe easily and focus on the execution of the shots instead of the mental aspects.”

The captains noted that the Ephs finally meshed in a way not been seen before. “From the start we have been a physically talented team that has had trouble connecting and putting all of the pieces together,” Kubal said. “Saturday was the first time we really felt confident about competing against two very strong teams.”

On Friday, the women traveled to Hamilton to kick off NESCAC Weekend. The Ephs opened competition with an unbelievably close five-set loss to the Continentals., especially hard to swallow since it was the first for the Ephs in conference play.

“We had been looking forward to this weekend for a while as a chance to turn around, and it was extremely frustrating to lose that first match,” McDermott said. “We started strong, but the system we were using was not working towards the end. It was difficult because we had to rearrange the lineup again due to the injuries we have suffered.”

The week began with an away loss in four sets to Union. The women fought hard, winning the second set and extending the third to extra points, but it was not enough to defeat Union. Setter Avis led the Ephs with a strong performance. Avis recorded a season high 48 assists and also eight digs on defense. Melissa Pun ’10 and Ballon-Landa spearheaded offensive efforts with 11 and 15 kills, respectively.

After weeks of frustration, Head Coach Fran Vandermeer’s search for a consistent defense may be over. She hopes the two-game win streak will give the Ephs the confidence and cohesiveness they need to succeed throughout the rest of conference play.

For now, the women are content with taking it one step at a time. “We are not looking too far ahead,” Kubal said. “We have pushed what has already happened in the past to the back of our minds because we cannot change that anymore. We are simply trying to stay consistent and focus on what needs to get done, and right now, that means playing solid defense and attacking on offense.”

Next up for the Ephs is the MIT Invitational on Friday and Saturday.