The University Athletic Association tournament proved to be a tough but successful outing for the eighth-seeded women’s volleyball team last Friday, as it lost its first two matches in the championship tournament to Washington University in St. Louis and Carnegie Mellon University, both by a score of 3-0. However, the ‘Jackets were able to come back on Saturday and earn a win to take sixth place in the tournament.

They opened against the Wash U Bears, who are currently ranked seventh in the country by the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll and were the top seed in the tournament, and lost each of three matches, 16-30, 20-30, 19-30. The Yellowjackets managed 47 digs, with freshman right side Maura Hamilton and junior outside hitter Jessica Rasmussen leading the team with eight apiece. Freshman outside hitter Tayler Schweigel added seven more, while freshman setter Rachel Bender and freshman libero Katie Drinkwater both had six. In addition to her six digs, Bender led the team with 15 assists. Meanwhile, sophomore middle blocker Caitie Hillard and Rasmussen led the team with four kills each.

Although playing much better, UR could not overcome CMU, losing each of the first three matches, 20-30, 24-30, 26-30. Rasmussen led the team with 10 kills, freshman middle hitter Sarah Kauper added seven more and sophomore outside hitter Emily Hunter had five. Rasmussen also led the team with 13 digs. Bender had eight digs and 25 assists.

“Overall I think we did pretty well at UAAs this past weekend,” Rasmussen said. “We went into championships being eighth in the conference, knowing we had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and I think we built off of that and it showed in our play. Friday we had a couple tough matches, but we came out on Saturday and played with a ton of heart and intensity. I think that especially showed when we played Case [Western Reserve University]. We played as a unit, a team, not just individuals. Every single girl stepped in and contributed this weekend.”

The Yellowjackets turned things around on Saturday and ground out a win against Case Western in five games, 30-24, 30-26, 16-30, 35-37, 16-14. Four players had 20 or more digs in the match. Sophomore setter Kate Lewis had 29, and Schweigel and Bender added 22 apiece. Rasmussen had an even 20, while Drinkwater and Hunter had 15 and 11, respectively. In addition, four players contributed significantly offensively with double-digit kills. Hunter led the team with 18, Rasmussen had 17 of her own, and Bender and Kauper added 12 and 11, respectively. Bender also added 48 assists in the match.

Defensively, senior middle blocker Ariel Edelson had four blocks and Hunter had three.

“I think that our energy on Saturday was extremely beneficial to us beating Case Western in five games,” Bender said. “I think that the mixture of wanting the win and the fact that we were playing on our home court helped us come out over Case Western. It was definitely a tough match, mentally and physically, and I think that every single one of us played at our highest level.”

The win against Case Western set up UR’s final match against the New York University Violets for fifth place. NYU took fifth place in a narrow 3-2 win over the ‘Jackets, 18-30, 26-30, 30-25, 30-18, 15-13. The loss was far from a disappointment, though. In this match, five players had double-digit numbers in digs. Drinkwater contributed 24, Lewis had 19 and Schweigel had 18. Additionally, Rasmussen had 14 and Hunter added 11. Kauper led the team with nine kills, while Hunter and Rasmussen had eight apiece. Lewis also contributed three aces and Rasmussen had two. Bender added 34 assists to the box score.

“In terms of things going better, I definitely think that we could have beat NYU,” Bender said. “However, volleyball is a sport that can change dramatically within one rotation. We had some ruts and couldn’t seem to get out of them as quickly as during the Case match. I am very excited for future UAA tournaments because now I know what to expect of the teams. Our conference has a lot of depth, since we have extremely powerful teams, which can only benefit and improve our playing level.”

This left the Yellowjackets in sixth place, and they finished their season 17-21 overall.

“Even though we didn’t end on a win, I think we ended our season on a good note. I think this leaves us excited for the off season to work hard towards a new season next year,” Rasmussen said.

Letson is a member of the class of 2009.

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