Jumbos edge volleyball in 5

Volleyball (16-10, 3-2 in the NESCAC) lost a hard-fought conference match on Saturday night to Tufts after splitting the Washington University Invitational over reading period. On Saturday, the Ephs rallied after dropping the first two sets but eventually lost in five to the Jumbos.

The women’s conference match at Amherst against Tufts was a tough loss to swallow, finishing in five close sets (21-25, 19-25, 25-19, 26-24, 9-15). The Ephs waged a relentless battle and strung out the Jumbos to four matches before letting their opponents gain too much of an early lead in the fifth match. The Ephs’ Achilles’ heel in this match seemed to be inconsistency and errors, issues that have plagued them all season.

“On a positive note, we fought hard to force the fifth set,” said Head Coach Fran Vandermeer. “However, there were far too many unforced errors throughout the match -missed digs, missed block assignments, hitting errors and communication errors. These continued to neutralize any steps forward that we have been taking. Our challenge at this point as we move forward is for each player to become much more consistent and confident in these areas.”

With this conference loss, the Ephs fell to fifth in the most current NESCAC standings. However, the team has five more chances to improve its record and obtain a better seed for the upcoming NESCAC championship in November.

On Oct. 10, the Ephs traveled to the two-day Washington University Invitational to take a crack at fresh foes from far outside the NESCAC. They played teams from Christopher Newport and Baldwin Wallace on Saturday and Illinois Wesleyan and Washington University on Friday.

“I think the team learned a lot from the Wash. U. Invitational,” co-captain Chelsea Kubal ’10 said. “We played at a really high level that we don’t often get to see in the Northeast. I think we also saw how much potential we have, and how the top teams in the nation are beatable. It was a great trip for us to have at this point in the season and a great motivation for us to keep working hard in the gym everyday.”

In Saturday’s morning match, volleyball took the first set before dropping the next three to lose to Christopher Newport (25-20, 11-25, 10-25, 23-25). A balanced effort by the entire Williams team was not enough to overcome its opponent. In the later match, the Ephs dropped the first set before gaining some momentum and taking the next three for a solid win over the Yellow Jackets (19-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-17). With 24 kills in this final match, Kate Anderson ’11 was named to the All-Tournament team. Also making crucial contributions to the team’s victory were Eleanor Levine ’11 with eight kills, four blocks, five aces and 10 digs and Kubal with a gutsy performance of 37 assists and 15 digs.

On Sunday, the four sets of the Illinois Wesleyan match (25-16, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18) were all fairly close; and in the end, the Ephs’ defensive performance carried them to victory. Kubal paced the team with an impressive 27 assists and 13 digs. First-year Aly McKinnon ’12 also contributed to the victory with three crucial service aces and 18 digs.

The second game on Sunday was somewhat of an eye-opener for the Ephs. The Wash. U. Bears came into the match ranked fourth in the nation. Williams played valiantly but was overpowered by Wash. U.’s offense, dropping the first three sets (25-19, 25-19, 25-14).

Nonetheless, the team’s focus remains in the moment. “In the last stretch of the regular season, I think we need to keep focusing on pushing the tempo of our offense and playing solid defense,” Kubal said. “We had a tough game against Tufts that we started off slow and then picked things up but it ended up not being enough. But those are the types of games where our consistent focus and intensity will help us out a lot more down this stretch.”

Last night, the women played a conference match against Amherst in their last home game of the season. The results came in too late to include in this week’s issue.

Next up for the women is the Hall of Fame Tournament at Smith this weekend, beginning Friday.