After sweeping D’Youville College, 30-22, 30-12 and 30-18 on Tuesday, the UR women’s volleyball team is off to a strong start. Aggressive play in the middle and solid service boosted the Yellowjackets to their fourth straight victory and a 7-2 overall record.

“I think that we’re improving every game,” first year head coach Linda Downey said. “There’s a bit of depth on the team this year and I think we’ll be able to compete through the entire season.”

UR showcased that depth against D’Youville, with every player on the roster getting time on the court. Junior Liz Loveless led the team with 33 assists and eight digs, junior Kristin Vogt had 12 kills and sophomore Haley Massa contributed nine kills.

The Yellowjackets combatted a slow start in the first game by serving competitively through the entire match – senior Stephanie Bristol and sophomore Julia Mihalek had four aces apiece.

“We started off a little slow,” Loveless said, “but as soon as we started communicating, things started flowing better.”

This year’s freshmen also add to the team’s depth and are already making solid contributions. Freshmen Samantha Carr and Susan Johnson each had 12 digs and Johnson also added nine kills in Tuesday’s match.

Though conference play has not yet begun, last night’s game was a chance for UR to work on basics and continue improving.

“Our team played pretty well against D’Youville and improved on a lot of things that we have been working on in practice,” Johnson said.

“It was an easy win, but it gave us the chance to improve many things about our all-around game.”

Carr also felt that Tuesday’s game was a chance to improve.

“It was a good win for us against a team that is definitely improving,” she said. “The team played well together and didn’t allow balls to hit the floor.”

Downey has encouraged her team to focus on defense this season and the emphasis seems to be working.

“I told the girls that if we can keep the ball off the floor and make fewer errors than the opponent, we can keep winning,” she said.

With University Athletic Association play beginning the first week of October, the team is confident that they will be competitive in what Downey calls the toughest conference in Division III volleyball.

“It’s exciting to be in such a great conference,” she said. “There’ll be tough competition down the road, but that will only make our team better.”

Bristol also has high hopes for this season and believes that the Yellowjackets have enough talent to compete in the UAA.

“Basically, our team is shaping out to be the best since I’ve been here at Rochester,” she said. “We seem to get better at working and communicating with each other everyday – whether in an intense match or even scrimmaging each other in practice.”

Taylor can be reached at

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