Thursday, December 13, 2018

Season Wraps Up with Banquet at Swift House

Just before finals started, we took some time last weekend to wrap up our season with our team banquet.  The parents graciously helped out, so we celebrated our season in style with brunch at the Swift House!  Good food is always a high priority on our list, so it was a perfect way to celebrate our season.

We handed out the many previously announced awards honoring our team members for their accomplishments on the court, and in the classroom.  The first picture features our Academic All-NESCAC members, so a big shout out to those 5 (Claire, Isabel, Sarah, El, and Chellsa) for getting that nice honor.  Well done!!

The next picture is our Freshman class with their official Middlebury Varsity Letters!  It's actually an old tradition that I still love.  Many have put their letters on blankets, but Chellsa had hers made into a jacket, which was very cool!

Then we have a picture of our Team Award Winners.  Beth got the MCVB Spirit Award; Sarah got the Panther Pride Award, and Jane got the Yellow Jersey Award.

The MCVB Spirit Award is given to the player whom her teammates felt consistently demonstrated the positive spirit of Middlebury Volleyball.  Some of the comments for Beth included the following:  "positive force on this team," "no matter the situation, Beth was always ready to compliment and encourage her teammates," "extremely selfless teammate," "made great efforts to keep everyone engaged on and off the court," and "positive mindset and always encouraging."

The Panther Pride Award is meant to honor the person who was the best teammate.  This person should be someone who made those around her better by holding themselves and their teammates accountable to a high standard of excellence, both on and off the court.  Some of the comments about Sarah included: "Always put the team before herself," "motivating spirit, she held the team to a higher standard and expected the best from her teammates on and off the court," "vocal leader and constant source of energy for the team, but also realistic and accountable," " made each of us better players and inspired me to be a better friend."  She was also described as a "team mom." :)

The Yellow Jersey Award is to recognize the person who we felt gave consistent effort in practice on a daily basis throughout the season.  I think it originated from the idea of the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France years ago...Some of the comments about Jane included: "gave consistent effort in practice and made sure others were doing the same," " always made the effort to keep her game at a constant level to make the team stronger and better every day," " holds herself to a high standard and was a good role model for work ethic."

These are some very nice words for our award winners from their teammates and is a nice culmination of our season.  We strive for the unity of a family and the push and motivation of competitors, but always with a positivism that binds us together and keeps us moving forward as ONE.  We are MCVB!!

As has been my custom for a long time now, I get a Middlebury Blue fleece blanket with their number embroidered onto for each of the seniors.  I've probably been doing this for almost 20 years (?).  If any alumni are reading this and still have theirs, it would be fun to see a picture of you with yours and I'll create a collage!

We also honored our current captains for all the tireless work that they did helping make our season as successful and drama-free as possible.  I had mugs made (since we all like our coffee) with the team picture at one of our Dunkin' stops during the season so they can think of all of us as they enjoy a cup of coffee now in the off-season.

Plus, we had tree ornaments made for Jack, Jill and Judd of the team on one side, and our "family" names on the back.

Jill had to leave early, and so did Judd, so I got a picture of the "fellas" on the coaching staff.  We had a real staff this year with not only Brian and I, but also Jack was back for his second year coaching, and Jill (who played at UVM, and is the current HS tennis coach) helped us out at most practices.  Additionally, we also had occasional help from Jesse (who played at UVM and has done college coaching and officiating).  He was able to come for the end of some practices and a few home matches.  We're hoping to have them all back to help again next year, which would be great.

The final two pictures are of our middle two classes (who weren't already featured).  Fun times, and now everyone can focus on finishing up their finals and going home for break.  Gigi is actually leaving campus for the rest of the year as she heads abroad for J-term and Spring term, while  Chellsa will be returning for J-term and departing after that for her abroad experience.  Our final junior, Beth, is staying on campus and running track again this year, so at least we'll have her around!  That puts the sophomores in charge of our off-season activities, so it'll be a nice opportunity for that class to step up and be leaders.

Happy Holidays to you all!  Regardless of what Holiday you're celebrating, I hope it's a restful, thankful and emotionally energizing time of the year for you.  The start of a new year, even in the middle of a school year, is a wonderful time to reflect and be thankful for all that we have that's good and positive, but also a good time of year to re-evaluate what's important and make some strides to be better versions of ourselves in the new year.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

More 2018 Awards from the AVCA, CoSIDA and NESCAC!

The awards for Sarah and Isabel just keep coming, which is really great.  Several others have also received awards that we'll highlight in here as well, but I'm very excited for them both to be garnering these very nice honors in their final year.  First of all, both Sarah and Isabel were named to the AVCA All-Region Team (Northeast Region).  The AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) is the National Coaches organization which is split into 10 different regions across the country.  The Northeast Region has the second most member schools in it of the total of 437 Division III schools nationally.  Additionally, they were both named to the Honorable Mention All-American list by the AVCA!

Sarah was also named CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-District (District 1), and will go on a national ballot to be selected sometime in early December.  All THREE seniors were just named to the Academic All-NESCAC Team, which is quite impressive, so congratulations to our trio of Seniors (Sarah, Isabel and Claire).  Additionally, Sarah was one of only THREE athletes in all of the NESCAC who was on all three teams:  All-Conference, All-Academic, and All-Sportsmanship!  Well done, Sarah!!

Our other (non-senior) members of the NESCAC All-Academic Team were Chellsa and El, so huge congrats to the two of them as well!

We will certainly miss our three seniors next year, not only for their great volleyball skills, but also for their personalities and Team spirit!  Thank you for all of your contributions and congratulations on these very nice honors! 

As we wind up the first semester, we will celebrate our season with a Team Brunch at a local Inn later next week, right before finals start.  This is a nice way to end our semester, and then the long off-season begins.  The team organizes themselves to play, keep working out, and do other fun team bonding things as well as some community service events.  A couple of our juniors will be going abroad, so we'll hope to get updates on everything and post some fun happenings in the winter and off-season here in Middlebury to keep everyone up on MCVB.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

2018 Awards Announced; Sarah, Isabel and Corley Honored

Both the NESCAC and the NEWVA Awards have come out, and we're still awaiting the AVCA awards.  The New England Women's Volleyball Association voted Isabel to the 2nd Team, and Sarah to the Honorable Mention.  Corley was voted onto the All-Rookie team, an honor that Isabel had four years ago as well.  These honors are well deserved and tough to come by as there are 57 schools in the New England Region among which these three were selected.

Then, the NESCAC awards came out today, honoring both Isabel and Sarah to the 1st Team.  That's quite impressive as well since the depth of talent in the NESCAC is so great.  Sarah was also selected as a member of the All-Sportsmanship Team, voted on by her teammates, so again, that's a nice honor given by her teammates.

Congratulations to you all for these very well-deserved honors.  It's always nice to be honored individually, but we all know that it's the TEAM that matters, and individual honors just help the team be the best it can be, and that's the most important thing!  Well done, MCVB!!

2018 Season Ends in NESCAC Quarterfinals

We were on the bus for almost 6 hours, through the driving rain and arriving in the dark, but we managed to get there earlier than we had the last time we traveled to Bowdoin for the NESCAC Tournament.  Two years ago we had this same situation, heading to Bowdoin for the NESCAC's, playing Tufts in the 8pm Quarterfinal of #4 vs #5, but we arrived with only about 45 min on the clock before match time.  All's well that ends well, and we prevailed that night, but all the same, we were happy to arrive on time this year!

As the NESCAC does before the tournament, they like to put out the stats on each team, and not just the stats, but the history.  For example, they reported that we were vying for our 6th overall Championship while Tufts was searching for their elusive 2nd one.  We entered the tournament holding a 4-0 edge over Tufts in Tournament play (which I had to rack my brain to remember, but we'd beaten them twice in the finals, once in the semi-finals and once in the quarterfinals.)  Anyway, it's all academic until the match starts, and nothing matters but how you play that day!

At 8pm, our match started in the upper gym at Bowdoin Friday night.  We played them very evenly during the first set, which saw them play much better than they had the first time we played them at home.  They were passing better, and serving tougher and the match was a very even one, even though we didn't feel as though our game was as sharp as we'd like it to have been.  We weren't controlling the action as we had when we played them at home a couple weeks beforehand, but it was a very competitive and evenly matched contest, as you'd expect in the Tournament.  That first set was as tight as any we've played all year with no team having more than a 1 or 2 point lead the entire set, which took extra points to be decided, unfortunately for them. 

I went into the huddle between sets thinking no worries, this is what the tournament is all about, and we just needed to do a few things a little better.  Our blocking was actually pretty good in that first set, and we were following our game plan pretty well, again, just needing to execute a few things a little better.  Tufts was riding the wave of having won that first set, pulling it out at the end in extra points and we just needed to stay strong mentally ourselves to push through and fight.  The second set was still very close, but we seemed to be behind by a couple of points most of the set instead of trading points and leads back and forth. We got behind 4 points at 16-20, but then closed the gap to 2 at 19-21, but couldn't seem to come up with points when we needed them and lost the 2nd set by losing the last three points on a service error, a receiving error and then a kill by Tufts. 

That seemed to be indicative of our destiny that day.  Although we did fight for what would turn out to be the final set, we had way more errors than we'd been averaging for the season with one of our lowest hitting % nights and a 2-1 service error-ace ratio.  When we tied the score at 10-10, that would be the last time we were even.  We hung in there only behind by 1-2 points for most of rest of the set up to trailing 17-19.  Tufts final push of 6 unanswered points put the nail in the coffin for us and ended our season.  During the night, we saw two of our players be helped off the court with injuries, which is never a good way to go out, one late in the 2nd set, and one late in the 3rd. 

It's always disappointing to end the season on a loss, which happens to everyone in the country but ONE team.  When the dust settles, I think we'll all look back on this season with fond memories and with good feelings.  It was a successful season for sure, and we ended up being ranked in the top 10 in the Region and were getting votes for top 25 in the Country, which is new for us, so that's a good sign moving forward. 

The light didn't take long to shine on our team again as both Sarah and Isabel were named to the ALL-NESCAC 1st Team, which is a great honor with the depth of talent in the Conference!  Congrats to both of them, and to the team that supports them!  Well done, MCVB!!  Sarah was also named to the All-Sportsmanship Team for NESCAC!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Halloween Practice Fun!!

Halloween Practice is sometimes during the regular season, and sometimes during the week leading up to NESCAC's, which was the case this year.  Fortunately for us, we've always made the NESCAC Tournament which takes the top 8 teams to play for the automatic bid to the NCAA's and the coveted NESCAC Championship, thus we're still together to celebrate Halloween.  This way everyone can wear their costumes for the beginning of practice, and it's become a really fun tradition that I really enjoy, as does the team.  I believe our theme this year was Disney...both princesses and villains!

We also have this fun picture of the seniors in their tiaras for their final practice in Pepin.  I think this was taken before senior night, however, so we did get another week of practice leading up to NESCAC's! 

And, I sometimes get in the Halloween mood as well, so I donned my witch costume and did manage to surprise a few of the players when I first walked into the gym before practice, which is always fun!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

MCVB Sweeps Final NESCAC Weekend on Senior Night/Parents' Weekend

Our final weekend of the regular season was a big success, by all accounts.  On the surface, it was two wins, putting us in 4th place outright in the NESCAC Tournament.  We also celebrated senior night, and both Isabel and Sarah had career highs on Saturday afternoon over Williams, and I can't think of a more fitting finale in Pepin for those two! 

The match against Hamilton was a bit of a struggle in the first set, as we got out to a 2-4 point lead that we held on to until about the mid-way point up 14-9, but then we fell behind 16-20 before a late surge tied it at 22-22, and then we pulled it out 25-23.  The second set we got in a good groove and jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.  The 3rd set saw us get behind early, and then fight to stay close behind 11-14 when they scored 7 unanswered points to take a commanding 22012 lead and win the 3rd set easily.  We bounced back in the 4th, however, and took an early lead of a few points that we would not relinquish to end the set with a 25-20 lead and the win.

Saturday we celebrated Senior Day!  It was a special day, as I eluded to earlier.  Ellie sang both the American National anthem and the Canadian National anthem to honor our Canadian senior, Claire, which was a great start to our day. 

Then, we had a very competitive match with Williams in which they took set 1 by a 25-19 score.  We had jumped out to an early lead of a couple of points but they tied it at 16-16 and after trading points a bit, they had 5 unanswered points to take a 24-18 lead and then the win in set 1.  We were undaunted and despite going down by a couple points early, their final lead of the second set was 11-10.  We had a couple of good runs and they would tie it again 17-17 but couldn't get the advantage as we surged ahead again to go up 22-17 and finished out the set 25-21 to tie the match at 1-1. 

The third and sometimes crucial set was nip and tuck the whole way with 11 tied scores, the final being 23-23 before they had an attack error followed by a kill from Sarah to end the set and take the match lead 2 sets to 1.  What would become the final set saw Williams jump out again to an early lead of a few points, but after we tied it at 8-8, we never let up and lead the rest of the way.  We held narrow leads of 1 or 2 points until we went up 17-14 on a kill by Isabel (one of her career tying 23!), and from that point we outscored them 8-5 to finish out the match.  A true highlight was match point when Sarah Staver POUNDED the ball to the floor untouched and with tremendous force to put an exclamation point on the win! 

Not only was it senior night and parents weekend, but we also had the Essex High School Girls Volleyball Team in the stands to watch us play.  They had just won a playoff game and were headed to the Semi-finals of the State Tournament and we loved having them there to watch us play.  After our match, we had a short meet and greet and had the girls all split off by position to talk about volleyball and playing in college etc.  It was very nice as VT HS volleyball is really still in it's infancy and it's great for those girls to see collegiate volleyball at this level.  It was a very competitive match and I was so proud of the team for hanging in there and staying mentally strong through a very tight match and coming from behind in almost every set, and then hanging on to a slim lead late in those sets. 

It was good to see heading into the NESCAC Tournament.  That night we celebrated at Flatbread with all the families and it was a really fun event.  The team gave the three seniors these awesome pillows as a gift to remember their MCVB time, which is so special.  We're not finished yet with a good week of practice left before we head back to the tournament to face off again with Tufts in the 8pm match in the Quarterfinals of the NESCACs!  Let's GO MIDD!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

MIDD Posts Big Regional Wins; Gigi Surpasses 1000 Digs!

We took a break from our Conference weekends to face off with three of the top ranked teams in our Region this past weekend, and came away with 2 big wins.  On Friday night, we faced a tough Babson team that was ranked 8th in the Region before the weekend.  We battled to a tight loss in the first set 25-22, but after that, the best thing that came of it was Gigi's match high 16 digs, putting her over her 1000th career Dig!  We struggled to put it all together because we definitely did some good things, but we just didn't put it all together enough facing a tough in-Region team.

We had a good fan section with the Anderson family, Beth's parents, Corley's family from CA (whom she was SO excited to see!), Claire's family, Gigi's mom and sister, Sarah's dad and sister and friends, Chellsa's dad, Jerry, plus others I'm sure I'm missing!  We didn't necessarily give them a show on Friday, but on Saturday, we turned things around.  A funny thing happened when we checked into our hotel Friday night:  there was a Middlebury hat on display at the front desk!  Good omen of things to come, I think!

Saturday morning we headed to MIT to take on the host school (currently ranked #4 Regionally, and #25 Nationally).  We started out strong and took the first set behind strong serving, good hitting and we got some key blocks on their big hitter, which was great.  The second set was very competitive, but they got hot and their big hitter that we'd contained in the first set exploded for 7 kills, and we dropped the second set by the same score we'd won the first by:  25-19.

The third set belonged to us again as we got out to a 12-5 lead, and continued on to have a 17-9 lead.  They closed the gap to 5 points at 19-14, but a 6-1 run by us was enough to put the game away for the 2-1 set lead.  The 4th set saw us get behind early 1-4 before coming back to go ahead 6-4.  We traded points a bit until we opened up leads of 16-11 and 20-14.  They closed the gap to a 22-18 margin before we finished them off for the win 25-19.  Overall we had a very solid match hitting .288 for the game and out-blocked MIT, which was great to see.  We had three hitters all in double digit kills (Corley with 10, Shea with 11, and Isabel with 15, and Sarah had 9--ALL 4 hit over .300, too!).

Our day was only half over at that point as we still had to play Springfield College at 3:30 pm.  The game schedule allowed all teams enough time to actually eat and relax a little before having to prepare to play again, which was really nice.  We hung out, some hit the nearby Dunkin Donuts for our favorite iced coffee, and then we started warming up again to take on Springfield.

Springfield had been ranked #2 in our Region before the weekend, and were coming off a win vs Williams before we played them.  The got up on us early and we were behind the entire set until we finally tied it 22-22, but they scored the final three for the first set win.  We seemed to find some energy somewhere and came out strongly in the next set to take a 10-5 lead after trading points to a 5-5 tie early on.  We would then open up a 20-9 lead and never look back.  The third set was very even through the middle part of the game to an 11-11 tie.  We then went on a run to put us up 22-14 and we put the set away.  They were not going anywhere and battled back to take the 4th set 25-20 on strings of short runs. 

The deciding and final set was ALL MCVB!  We jumped out to a 5-1 lead, and then an 11-3 lead and cruised to a decisive 15-5 5th set win!  I was very proud of everyone one on the team as we hung in there after a disappointing loss Friday night, and had to battle out two tough wins on Saturday.  To have lost the 4th set to Springfield and then come back in decisive fashion the way we did to win the 5th was also great to see.  Well done, MIDD.  For her efforts, Isabel was named the NESCAC Player of the Week, so congrats to Isabel, and the MCVB Team!

We have one final mid-week this week before we face our final two NESCAC foes in Hamilton and Williams this weekend to determine the Tournament seeding.  We're excited to keep playing and see if we can keep elevating our level of play as we head into Tourney-time!!  To help keep us fresh we did a relaxing yoga session with our resident guru, Prem Prakash!  Thanks Prem--we love our Monday Yoga!!