As the volleyball team entered its game last Friday, the ‘Jackets knew they were going up against some tough competition. The SUNY Fredonia Blue Devils were working off of a building momentum they had won seven-straight games, and their coach was up for his 200th career win. Though UR put in an effort to stymie the Blue Devils’ streak, the team was defeated, 1-3.
In contrast to the experienced team from Fredonia, the Yellowjackets are a young group working to gain familiarity with each other and the sport at a collegiate level.
UR has only two seniors and two juniors on its 16-person team, and head coach Ladi Iya is in her first year here. Iya sees this as something to look forward to, though.
‘Most of our current starting lineup are freshmen and sophomores, and the fact that this core group will be back next year with more experience is exciting to imagine,” she said.
Fredonia came out strong, taking the first game, 11-25. The next game, though a little closer, was still decisively in the hands of the Blue Devils, 19-25.
Iya attributed the team’s weak performance to an inability to receive serves effectively.
‘It was one of our weakest serve reception matches this season, and that in turn made our attacking much less terminal,” Iya said.
This nature of play forced the defensive players to step up to the challenge and stand out. Sophomore libero Tayler Schweigel had 39 digs, and senior outside hitter Jessica Rasmussen had 26 digs.
However, Iya fired up her team between the second and third games, giving the ‘Jackets the confidence to come out strong.
UR stopped the sweep from the Blue Devils by winning the third game by a close score of 25-22.
‘The team came on the court with good energy and played much more aggressively than they had in the first two sets,” Iya said. ‘Our passing was better in game two, and we served tougher at our opponents and were able to get them out of system.”
The Yellowjackets were unable to hold that strength in the fourth game, though, and the Blue Devils handedly defeated them, 11-25.
On the offensive side, junior outside hitter Emily Hunter had seven kills, and both sophomore middle hitter Sarah Kauper and freshman middle blocker Katie Kao each had six kills.
This weekend, the Yellowjackets travel to Carnegie Mellon University for the first University Athletic Association Round Robin. Their first game will be against Washington University in St. Louis, the defending national champion that is currently ranked fourth in the CSTV/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Coaches Poll.
An especially difficult challenge for the ‘Jackets this weekend will be the fact that they are lacking in the setter position. The starting setter for the team, co-captain and sophomore Rachel Bender, tore her ACL two weeks ago, and senior back-up setter Kate Lewis will be taking the LSATs on Saturday, meaning sophomore defensive specialist Maura Hamilton will have to fill the role.
Iya commented on the team’s efforts to prepare for the difficult upcoming matches.
‘We’ve been working on some different lineups,” she said. ‘We will be facing more physical teams than we’ve seen so far, so we’re working on being more consistent and increasing our offensive efficacy.”
Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.