Volleyball goes 3-1 at MIT Invite

Building on a strong showing last weekend at the NESCAC Weekend, volleyball (9-7, 3-1) went 3-1 at the MIT Invitational, winning the Silver Bracket and placing fifth overall in the tournament. The team split the first two matches of the two-day tournament, beating Endicott and losing to Springfield, then swept the second day by winning a close match against Wellesley and soundly defeating Bates in Williams’ final match.

The team began the weekend looking good, topping Endicott easily in straight sets in their first match on Friday. Eleanor Levine ’11 had six blocks, while Whitney Hitchcock ’09 and Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 had three blocks each. Co-captain Chelsea Kubal ’09 and Aly McKinnon ’12 led the team in aces with four apiece.

The team dropped the next match to Springfield 3-1, even with Kate Anderson ’11 recording 14 kills and five blocks and Emily Avis ’11 tallying 33 assists. The team’s loss to Springfield put the Ephs into the Silver Bracket for the second day of the tournament.

Saturday’s first match against the Blue Pride was a chance for payback – the women had played Wellesley earlier in the year and lost 3-0. Williams went up 2-0 and appeared to be on its way to winning the third before Wellesley made a comeback. After losing the third and fourth set, the Ephs dominated the fifth, winning 15-7. Avis had 36 assists, Anderson had nine kills and three blocks, and Kubal had 16 digs, 10 kills and three aces.

The team ended the weekend by defeating Bates 3-0 and winning the Silver Bracket. In the match, Avis had 28 assists and Anderson – named to the All-Tournament team – had 15 kills and four blocks. The victory was the team’s third in the NESCAC after they defeated Trinity and Wesleyan last weekend.

“Our blocking got really involved, and the team felt very cohesive on the court,” said Anderson. “We spent the earlier part of the season trying to find ourselves and dealing with some freak injuries [such as when Melissa Pun ’10 injured her MCL]; we took huge strides as a team and as individuals this weekend.”

Kubal had similar thoughts. “This weekend was a great one for us as far as team morale and resiliency are concerned,” she said. “We suffered a tough loss to Springfield- we definitely could have stayed more composed against [the Pride]. However, every game we are getting better and our hard work in practice is really showing on the court.”

Head Coach Fran Vandermeer attributed the women’s success this weekend to hard work in practice. “We worked on our blocking, our competitiveness and our offensive rhythm this week at practice,” she said. “I think we are becoming more comfortable with the responsibilities of our primary defensive system, so we are taking better care of our first contacts. We need to keep improving those first touches on defense so we can keep the ball in play and stay patient enough to win the long rallies more.”

The women will host the Williams Invitational this weekend. The Ephs hope to use their momentum from last weekend to continue their success through the rest of the season. “The team morale is really high right now,” Kubal said. “I am confident that if we keep making the necessary changes and working hard everyday in practice we will be playing late into November. This weekend will be a lot of fun. It’s rare for us to get a chance to play at home and the competition should be good.”

The team will play four matches, opening with SUNY-Oneonta on Friday, followed by WNEC, Westfield State and Skidmore.