After starting the season with an impressive 7-2 record, the Yellowjackets came into the Rochester Institute of Technology tournament on Friday looking to stay on a roll. What they got was a rollercoaster weekend, dropping two matches on Friday before rebounding with two wins on Saturday.

Friday’s action consisted of two heartbreaking losses to SUNY Brockport and Ithaca College by identical 3-1 scores.

The first match, against Brockport, started off promisingly. The ‘Jackets toughed out a close 31-29 win in the first game to take the early momentum. Unfortunately for them, the match went downhill from there. The team dropped the next three games 25-30, 18-30, 19-30 and came out of the contest with a loss.

Sophomore Dana Hilfinger led the offense with 10 kills for the match. On the defensive side of the match, freshman Maura Hamilton had 19 digs while sophomore Kate Lewis chipped in 10 of her own. Jessica Rassmussen, the lone junior on the team, showed her skills on both offense and defense, posting nine kills and nine digs. Freshman setter Rachel Bender had 39 assists.

After the tough loss, the ‘Jackets had to go back on the court to face the Bombers of Ithaca College. Just as in UR’s first match, the team came out of the gate strongly with a 30-28 win in the first game. And also like the first match, the Yellowjacket spikers failed to hold that advantage, losing three straight games by scores of 23-30, 19-30 and 22-30.

Rassmussen was once again solid in all aspects of the game, ringing up 12 kills and 17 digs. Bender served up 35 aces along with nine digs. Sophomore Emily Hunter had 12 kills, while Lewis chipped in 13 digs.

“It would have been awesome to beat Brockport or Ithaca, but we did take them to four games each,” head coach Linda Downey said. “Right now we are working on consistency throughout a match, [because] you can win the first two games of a match and lose the next three. We cannot dwell on a loss but realize it is only going to give us more experience heading into conference play.”

After squandering two leads, it would have been easy for the Yellowjackets to do just that and dwell on the past heading into the pair of matches slated for Saturday. Both matches were against teams that the ‘Jackets had beaten earlier in the season, so there was the added pressure of keeping that advantage. Fortunately for UR, the team found new life and won both the matches to even their record for the weekend at 2-2.

The ‘Jackets wasted no time in asserting their dominance in the first match, as they rolled over SUNY Potsdam 30-26, 30-25, 30-22. Rassmussen led the way on offense, tallying nine kills and three aces. Bender took care of her job, dishing out 25 assists. Hilfinger had eight kills and senior Ariel Edelson finished with five kills. The defensive leaders were Lewis and freshman Katie Drinkwater, who totaled 14 and six digs, respectively.

The second match wasn’t quite as smooth, but nevertheless it resulted in the all-important win for UR. They matched up against the Clarkson University Golden Knights, a team fresh off a beating of St. John Fisher College earlier in the day. Each team had posted a 1-2 record in the tournament coming in to the match, so the stakes were high.

The Yellowjackets once again started fast, taking the first two games 30-24 and 30-20. The Golden Knights fought back in the third game, however, and got back in the match with a 20-30 win. Unfazed by the setback, UR stormed back with a 30-23 win in the fourth game to seal the victory.

For the second time in the tournament, Rassmussen posted double-digit kills and digs, finishing the match with 10 and 17, respectively. For the tournament, she averaged an impressive 10 kills per game. Hunter found an offensive rhythm in the final match of the weekend, chalking up 17 kills. Bender stuffed the stat sheet with 41 assists, 13 digs and four aces, and Hamilton matched her dig total.

“Our goal this weekend at the RIT tournament was to come out at least 2-2,” Downey said. “We were in a very tough pool Friday with experienced teams. Our team sees at least three freshmen on the floor at all times, [but] we are acquiring experience with each game.”

As if four matches in two days wasn’t enough for the ‘Jackets, they had to return to RIT on Tuesday to face the Tigers, who won the weekend tournament just three days before.

The theme for UR continued, as they took the opening game by a score of 30-28. RIT returned the favor in the second game with an identical score, evening the match at one game apiece. The teams played another tight game in the third, with the Yellowjackets coming out on top 31-29.

Once again, however, the opposition rallied to steal a victory from UR. The fourth game went to the Tigers 30-25, and in the decisive fifth game – which is played to 15 – RIT squeaked out a 15-13 victory.

Despite the loss, UR players once again put up some impressive numbers. Bender posted a whopping 48 assists. Rassmussen provided 16 kills and 24 digs, and Lewis matched her dig total. Hamilton also showed off her defensive skills with 15 digs.

The Yellowjackets sandwich a trip to Keuka College on Saturday with two home dates, squaring off against Medaille College tonight at 7 p.m. and facing Ithaca College on Tuesday at the same time.

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.



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