Heading into the University Athletic Association’s first Round Robin over fall break, the Yellowjackets knew they were up against some tough competition. They opened up the weekend with a match against Washington University in St. Louis, who is the defending national champion and currently ranked fourth in the country according to the College Sports Television and American Volleyball Coaches’ Association poll.
Next, the ‘Jackets took on Case Western Reserve University and host Carnegie Mellon University, dropping all three matches. In efforts to rebound from the tough weekend, the ‘Jackets faced off against local competitor St. John Fisher College on Wednesday, Oct. 8. While they kept play tight, they were eventually unsuccessful, losing in four games.
Against the Wash U Golden Bears on Friday afternoon, the Yellowjackets snapped back from two blowout losses to grab a win in the third game before ultimately reaching their defeat in the fourth.
Wash U decisively took the first two games, 25-9 and 25-8. UR then bounced back in a closely played game, winning 27-25. The fact that the ‘Jackets were able to take a game from the nationally-ranked Bears gave testament to their will to play hard and stay competitive.
‘This win was a real confidence booster for our team,” head coach Ladi Iya said. ‘Just to psychologically know we could be in the match was key.”
The Bears would not let this rattle them, however, and they grabbed the victory with a 25-10 win of the fourth game. On Saturday morning, Case Western defeated the ‘Jackets in three straight games, and Carnegie Mellon also won, 3-1.
‘In the first round we played very well, but then the level of play dropped,” Iya said. ‘Our goal for this weekend [in the second round robin] is to be consistent.”
Iya noted that UR’s defense is one of its strongest points. This was evidenced in the game against Case Western, where sophomore libero Tayler Schweigel had 29 digs, freshman outside hitter Casey Larsen had 20 and senior setter Kate Lewis had 16, and in the game against Carnegie Mellon, freshman middle blocker Katie Kao had 13 digs and two blocks.
‘We make a lot of touches on the ball,” Iya said, ‘but we are working on making better touches to convert more points.”
Iya also noted that the Yellowjackets run a good middle attack. She commented that they are a smart attacking team and that they are working on becoming more terminal with their swings.
In the game against Fisher, the Yellowjackets hoped to make up for the losses in the tournament UR had not lost to St. John Fisher since before 2003.
However, the Cardinals have improved their program as of late. This year they have a decisively winning 14-10 record, something they haven’t had in the past couple of years.
The Cardinals had an early lead, winning the first game, 25-15. UR then evened the playing field by taking the second game, 25-22, in a closely battled match.
Though UR came out with a decisive lead early in the game, St. John Fisher managed to tie the score at both 13 and 20 points. However, the ‘Jackets finished out with the win.
The Yellowjackets continued this trend of competitiveness in the third game, taking it to over 30 points. They repeatedly earned a one-point advantage, but Fisher was ultimately victorious, winning, 31-29.
By the fourth game, it was obvious that the Cardinals had taken control.
The ‘Jackets were no longer able to sustain the momentum of the previous two games, and they could not keep up. Fisher took the final game, 25-20.
Once again, UR’s defense was a strong point. Senior outside hitter Jessica Rasmussen had 28 digs, and Schweigel had 27. In addition, junior outside hitter Emily Hunter had 12 digs, and Kao had two blocks.
‘With this match, we played very well, but the difference between the win and the loss was that we made a lot of errors in the last few points,” Iya said. ‘This weekend we will work on limiting our errors, especially when it comes to game point situations.”
This weekend, the ‘Jackets return to UAA play with the second round robin tournament.
They will face New York University on Saturday and Emory University, who is currently ranked second in the nation, on Sunday.
‘I’m very excited for this weekend,” Iya said. ‘Now that we’ve seen the level of play, we’re more relaxed and more confident. We’ve had a couple more weeks of practice and we’re ready to play.”
Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.