Coming off of a strong preseason, volleyball (3-1) opened its season on Friday at the Endicott Invitational in Beverly, Mass., with a 3-2 win over Eastern University. The women continued their early successes with a 3-0 win against Endicott later that day. The second day of the tournament did not prove as smooth for the women, who came away with a 3-0 win against Plymouth State and 3-0 loss to Roger Williams for their first defeat of the season.
Head Coach Christi Kelsey recognized the opportunity for her team to build on a strong preseason in its opening weekend. “I think from the outset this team has been focused to improve upon our performance overall last year – not just in terms of our wins and losses but our overall level of play night in and night out,” Kelsey said. “So far, I have been incredibly proud of the team in terms of [its] focus, enthusiasm and work ethic during our first week together in preseason and our opening weekend of matches. Their overall intensity and motivation is evident in how they approach each practice and that is going to help us get better every time we step on the court.”
The women began the tournament on a high note, winning the first set of the match against Eastern University 25-21. The Ephs soon slowed though, losing both the second and third sets 20-25. However, they came back in the fourth set to win 25-21 and powered through the fifth set to win the match 3-2. As a result, the women handed Eastern University, ranked No. 16 in Div. III, its first loss of the season. Mandy Schott ’15 was a huge contributor on the court with a total of 18 digs.
Williams continued its streak later that night, dominating host Endicott in a 3-0 victory. They won in straight sets in practically identical fashion, defeating Endicott 25-21, 25-21 and 25-20. Tori Jasuta ’17 recorded 11 kills, while captain Emily Doll ’14 had nine. Doll, Schott and setter Ryan Farley ’16 each had 11 digs.
“This was a solid start for us with wins against two strong quality teams,” Kelsey said. “I liked our consistency from point-to-point and set-to-set for both matches. Our team chemistry was probably our biggest strength, and that’s a testament to just how focused and connected this group has been from day one in pre-season.”
Williams kept up the energy the following morning against Plymouth State, winning all three sets. The Ephs eked out a close 25-23 first set and then established control with a 25-17 victory in the second, going on to dominate the third and final set 25-13. Raea Rasmussen ’15 had six kills and recorded an astonishing hitting percentage of .857, while Farley had 31 assists. Unfortunately, the women could not continue their winning streak, as they lost their first match of the season to Roger Williams 3-0 later that afternoon. Jasuta lead the Ephs with 13 kills and was named to the All-Tournament team because of her remarkable offensive performances. Farley led the team with 24 assists and 14 digs.
“Everyone got in the game at some point, we upset the No. 16 team and finally saw all of our hard work from pre-season in action,” Doll said. “Although we dropped one match, it was a really strong start to our season and really showed us how much our team is capable of accomplishing this season.”
Kelsey called the 3-1 record a “solid start to [the] season.” “I am incredibly proud that every single person on our team made strong contributions over the course of our four matches,” Kelsey said. “I know we are excited about getting back in the gym on Monday and continuing to make our program better.”
Kelsey also highlighted the importance of team chemistry and the bond that the team has created to carry them through the season: “[The team is a] great combination of experienced, competition-tested and talented returners and enthusiastic, driven and talented first-years,” she said.
After graduating three seniors last year, Mika Nakashige ’13, Lauren Agoubi ’13, and Haley Eagon ’13, the Ephs added four first-years to their roster: Funmi Adejobi ’17, Anna Spellman ’17, Jasuta, Caitie Benell ’17.
Volleyball travels to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Wednesday to take on Vassar in its first NESCAC matchup of the season. This weekend, the women will participate in the Union College Invitational, matching up against Oneonta State and Cortland State on Friday and facing Skidmore and Hartwick on Saturday.