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!!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

MIDD Splits Big Weekend at Home

We hosted Tufts last Friday night, and Bowdoin on Saturday for a key NESCAC weekend against two tough teams.  It was great to be home again after being on the road for 5 straight matches over two and half weeks, and it was a picture perfect Fall Weekend, so that was a fun way to start. 

We came out on fire against a good Tufts team and dominated the first two sets 25-15, and 25-16 respectively.  We were passing well, and running our offense and able to keep them out of system for the most part.  They rebounded, as all good teams do and took a closely contested 3rd set 20-25.  Their offense got going a little and they started to pass the ball better, but the great news for us was that we met the challenge and upped our game again to take the fourth set 25-20.  It was a big win for us, as Tufts is always a good team and a Conference contender.  We hit .346 for the match, which could be a season high for us.  We had three hitters with double digit kills, Shea had a match high 3 service aces, and Gigi had a match high 17 digs. 

The next day we faced Bowdoin who was at that point unbeaten in Conference, and we felt ripe for the upset.  We dug ourselves in a hole early by going down 2-8 right out of the gate, but we fought back into it to tie it 14-14.  The rest of the set was very tight with neither team able to get more than a couple points ahead.  Tied 22-22, they scored the final three points to take the first set.  The second set we got out to an early lead and never looked back.  They crept closer a couple of times to get within 3 points, but then we'd pull away again and finished taking the set 25-16 to tie the match at 1-1. 

The third set was the most competitive of the match with several lead changes and after our initial surge to go up 7-2, no one able to get more than a 2 point lead the rest of the way until we went up 24-21 and finished 25-23 to take a 2-1 set lead into the 4th set.  They jumped out on us 5-1, and although we got to within 3 at 10-7, they put together another surge to take a commanding 17-9 lead and finished the set with a 7-2 run to force a 5th and deciding set.  There was a rather large momentum swing at that point that we couldn't quite shake.  Although we were competitive, they were scoring points in groups, and we were just siding out, but not really scoring points in a row such that we were always trailing by a few points.  We'd get back to within 2 and then they'd score another pair/trio of points and that last set is too short to withstand much of that.  They blocked us well, and with an 18-1 record on the season, they've been doing this to people all season. 

Statistically, it was a very even match, as it was Friday night.  Against Tufts, it was us who made way fewer errors, and against Bowdoin, the main stat that hurt us was their blocks, where they held a 14-5 advantage.  It was frustrating because we felt like we were playing very well at times, but at this point in the season, we know to beat the best teams, you have to put it all together.

We have another tough weekend coming in Boston where we play three of the top NEWMAC teams who are all ranked above us in the Regional Rankings.  It will be a nice break from Conference action, and a great opportunity to keep improving and raising the level of our game as we head into the final weekend of the Regular season.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Picture Day!!

 Picture night is always a good time.  Here are our class photos, and some fun ones as well.  This group knows how to have fun and laugh.  Love it!

We start with our three seniors!  Then we have the junior class followed by the "upperclassmen" photo.

 Here we have the sophomore class, including their silly photo!  And finally the freshman class, including their pyramid!!  Fun times, TEAM!!