Supported by the powerhouse arm of freshman right side hitter Alma Guevara and the quick reflexes of freshman libero Lauren Bujnicki, the UR women’s volleyball team defeated the St. John Fisher College Cardinals this past Tuesday night, bringing its win-loss record to an even keel.
Now at 17-17 for the season, UR heads into the University Athletic Association Championships this weekend following an already intense week. This past weekend, the women attended the Vassar College Invitational, losing to the home team as well as SUNY Fredonia while defeating Stevens College and Sage College. The first three matches lasted five games, but in its final match, UR crushed Sage in three games.
‘Our ability since the beginning of the season has improved tremendously,” head coach Ladi Iya said. ‘The skill level of the team improved very quickly initially and has continued to grow.”
Against Sage, senior outside hitter Emily Hunter made 12 kills for UR, while freshman outside hitter Kelly Mulrey and Guevara each had seven kills. junior defensive specialist Katie Drinkwater led the team in digs with 24, while Bujnicki had 12.
In the Stevens game, where UR pulled out a win, 33-31, 16-25, 27-25, 15-25, 15-10, Guevara had 27 kills, and Mulrey had 17.
The team had no luck in the first game against Vassar, where UR lost in five sets. Guevara had 16 kills, Mulrey had 13 and sophomore Casey Larsen had nine. Against Fredonia, meanwhile, UR went 22-25, 25-23, 14-25, 25-23, 10-15, with Mulrey leading the kill count at 14 and Guevera scoring 12; Bender made 39 assists.
Ending the weekend with a 16-17 record, the women regrouped for their final game of the regular season on their home turf, ready and waiting for the Cardinals. In a 25-21, 25-21, 25-23 match that had fans on the edges of their seats, Guevara delivered 13 kills and six service aces. Mulrey made seven kills and Hunter had six.
In most of the matches played this past week, and indicative of a trend this season, the women have seldom had a wide margin of defeat or victory.
‘We had a really great comeback against a regionally ranked Stevens team,” Iya said. ‘On the flip side, we dropped five games to Vassar College and Fredonia by a margin of only two points. This year, our region has been very evenly matched, which made it exciting because no one was a sure win in any given match.”
With the regular season coming to a close on Tuesday, the team now looks ahead to a highly competitive UAA Championship this weekend in Chicago, where they take on three major rivals in the same bracket: Washington University in St. Louis (ranked third in the nation), followed by New York University and Case Western Reserve University. NYU and Wash U both dealt the ‘Jackets bruising defeats earlier this season, both taking down UR 3-0; NYU also eliminated UR in the Rochester Institute of Technology semi-finals, 1-3.
And while the Yellowjackets largely held their ground against Case in a 2-3 nail-biter, Guevara looks most forward to a rematch with NYU.
‘It’s kind of annoying to play a team that you know you can beat, that thinks that you’re not good enough,” Guevara said.
The success against those three teams determines the rest of the Yellowjackets’ matches in the tournament, which also marks the departure of Hunter and senior Katie Fenton.
‘Over the course of this season, the roles of our seniors have altered somewhat and they have done a good job in adapting and contributing on the court and trying to be leaders in non-volleyball aspects,” Iya said. ‘Both Emily and Katie have been a part of UR volleyball for four years now and we appreciate their involvement.”
Brenneman is a Take Five Scholar.