Friday, October 9, 2015

MIDD Gets Two More NESCAC Wins in CT, and Final Mid-Week Match in Straight Sets

We seem to be having some travel issues this Fall, as we arrived a little later than we would have liked down in Hartford for our Trinity match.  At one point, as we were "touring" campus, we actually stopped and let out a few players that needed to get to the training room because we could see where we needed to be, but couldn't actually find the way to drive there.  Since it was lightly raining, the rest of us decided to stay with our driver and attempt to find the actual entrance to the gym, but we sent the other heading out across a turf field to the gym waiting beyond.  Eventually, we made it, and for most teams, it was still fine timing-wise, but since we like to arrive places very early, we felt a little behind schedule.

No matter, game time comes when it comes, and we were ready!  We were also celebrating Athlete Ally Week, so we wore our new Ally Tees to warm up in for both matches this weekend.  For those that aren't aware of the organization "Athlete Ally", it's mission is to make athletics a safe and welcoming space for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.  We're hoping to raise awareness of this issue by supporting the cause and wearing our tee shirts proudly and around campus and the community to celebrate Ally Week this week, and every week.

We cruised to an easy victory in set one, and slowed down a bit in set two, but after playing back and forth for a bit, we opened up a wide margin to win 25-19 in the 2nd.  Heading into the 3rd set, however, we couldn't seem to put them away.  Trinity was very scrappy and kept many balls alive that we thought were down, and they started putting the ball down past our defense, and we found ourselves down 22-23.  Three points later, we emerged victorious in straight sets--a block by Becca/Mel, sandwiched between two powerful kills by Becca that both overpowered Trinity's block, coming down in front of them and the net, and the match was ours!  We hit .301 for the match, which was great to see.

The next day we traveled the short ride to Wesleyan, which allowed us time to sleep in, study some in the morning, and still make our Dunkin stop!  We traded points early with Wesleyan, being tied last at 10-10, when we pulled away to go up by 6 at 20-14.  We didn't finish cleanly, and they closed the gap to 24-22 before we notched the final point for the first set win.

Set two was very tight the whole way taking us up 21-19, and then Becca scored a kill that sent Hannah to the service line, and her first serve was an ace, and then we scored the next two points for the 2nd set victory.  The 3rd (and final) set was again back and forth to a 12-12 tie, and then we just steadily pulled away for the 25-18 set, and straight-set sweep.  Emily had a match high 23 digs, Becca led all hitters with 19 kills, and Hannah averaged over 10 assists per set.  Claire came through with a match high 4 service aces, and both Mel and Eliana had two block assists. 

It was a quick turn-around to play again on Tuesday on our home court against Skidmore.  We came out strong and took a 5-1 lead and never looked back as we took the first set 25-17.  The 2nd set, however, proved to be quite a different story, even after starting out in a similar fashion.  We jumped out to a 6-0 lead, only to see them come storming back trading points, and then going on a 5-0 run themselves to take a slim lead at 13-14.  We traded points again, and both teams would take a slim lead, only to see it shift back again.  They finally went up 22-24 as we faced two set points against, but Charlotte came through with a kill from the back row, sending Becca to the service line, where she would stay until the match ended.  Isabel subbed in to the front, and quickly scored a thundering kill down the line to tie the game at 24-24 before Eliana and Mel blocked their big hitter and then a well executed tip by Isabel finished off the comeback win in set 2.  The third set was all us as we got out to a 7-1 lead, and cruised on to a 25-13 win for the straight set match win again. We hit over .300 again, and both Becca had match highs for service aces, kills, and digs, while Hannah shared the service aces high with 3 also, while getting 40 assists in the match for over 13 assists per set.  Eliana and Mel shared for match highs in the blocking category, each with 3 block assists.

We now face two big Conference rivals in "The Purples" this weekend as both Amherst and Williams come to play in our gym!  We're excited about the opportunity to play two highly ranked teams in New England, and to show them and ourselves just what we're made of!  Should be a fun weekend, and it's also the weekend we're celebrating Parent's Weekend for our Team, and also the Inauguration of our new College President, Laurie Patton, so it should be a very festive, and fun weekend of MIDD action!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monday Yoga

Sometimes after a long weekend, we'll do something different in practice on a Monday.  Sometimes it's non-volleyball fitness, sometimes it's a pool workout, or simple fun in the pool, and on occasion, it's just Yoga to recuperate the body.  This Monday was one of those days.  We couldn't get our Yoga instructor extraordinaire (aka Kathryn), so she found us one of her yoga friends, who was GREAT!  Chelsea led an hour long class that was both soothing and helpful for some sore/tired bodies, which should help us prepare to go hard the rest of the week leading into our next NESCAC weekend in CT.  Thank you, Chelsea!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MIDD Sweeps Long Weekend in NY State

It wasn't meant to be a long weekend, really.  We had our NESCAC travel partner (Hamilton) on Friday night at 8pm.  Then we were to travel to Skidmore on Saturday morning to play two matches that afternoon, so it was a three match weekend, but we had a tough time getting over to Hamilton on Friday night, which lengthened our weekend (or shortened our sleep, more realistically).

We always arrive places very early, and by design.  Better safe than sorry, and it's always good to get somewhere and then have time to walk around and stretch your legs is what I'm always thinking.  Well, everything was going smoothly until we picked up our pre-game (pre-ordered) food at Panera outside of Saratoga Springs, NY.  They didn't quite have our food ready, so we had to wait about 15-20 minutes instead of just going in and picking it up.  And, when we got back on the bus, I told them that things like that are why we always try to leave extra wiggle room when traveling.  About 10 minutes later, we were sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the interstate, and I had no idea why, or what this would mean for our ETA. 

Long story short, we didn't arrive until 8:45, and we started the match at 9:30 pm.  Unfortunately, we learned later that there had very sadly been a fatal accident on the interstate, and it had to be shut down, and thus, the extreme congestion.

No excuses--it's still game time!  We got off to a somewhat rocky start, and lost the first set 21-25 behind some inconsistent play.  The next set we were in more control, and played more like the team we've been seeing in practice, and had our way at the net, hitting .562 for the set to tie the match.  The third set was tighter, but again a .500 hitting % put us over the top to take a 2-1 lead.  The final set belonged to us, for the most part, and although we didn't hit the % we had in the previous two sets, we still hit well, and for the match we really started digging the ball, which was great to see.  We hit our best % for the season, but we also played very scrappy defense, and notched more digs than previously, so that's a good point from which to move forward.

Lizzy's parents were troopers!!  They stayed for the whole match, AND brought cookies and chocolate covered strawberries.  YUM!  THANK YOU both so much for all of the continued support, even after four years of "team dad," you're still supporting us, and Lizzy couldn't even make the trip because of her role planning and running the United Way's Days of Caring!  By all accounts, that was a huge success, so good job, Lizzy!  (The Reeds may have confessed that just watching the team without a daughter on the court was somewhat less stressful...)    

The other thing that led to our long weekend happened after the match ended.  We had to send our bus driver back to the hotel before the match because we didn't know what time we'd finish, and he has to have a certain amount of time off before he can drive again the next day.  So, with all of our extra time on the bus, I scheduled taxi's to come and get us about 11:15 or so.  Well, they didn't show up until almost midnight, and after we packed ourselves into two minivans, we finally arrived at our hotel a little before 12:30 am.  Breakfast at 8!  :)

The next day we arrived as we usually do two plus hours before we were due to play, so we were back on our normal schedule.  We had our hands full with a very scrappy Ramapo team.  They took the first set, and then we pulled out two very close sets, one in extra points (25-23, 26-24) by showing very good composure and mental toughness in tight spots to go ahead 2-1.  Then, the wheels fell off.  It was almost funny how bad we were...almost.  Actually, it wasn't funny at all, but what can you do?  They served us right off the court and won without much of a contest 25-12.  Yikes!  We rebounded well, and we battled through a very tight, back and forth final set for the 15-12 win.

Our day was not quite over yet, though.  We still had to play Sage.  They took a pretty close first set, which was more on our errors then on their positive swings, so we promptly regrouped, and cruised to take the next three straight sets which saw different people contribute in new ways.  Sarah and Gabi both played a little RH, along with Eliana; Claire played all over the back row, and both Jen and Rose played defense right back.  Emily and Charlotte continue to be our libero tandem, and Hannah keeps dishing out an almost league-leading 10+ assists per set.  Becca and Isabel are both in the top 10 in Kills in the league, and Mel is leading the league in hitting % and tied for top honors in blocks.  We don't like to dwell on stats, but they can be a very useful tool, and it's always nice to be recognized, especially in a very tough Conference such as NESCAC.  Alice is still out nursing that ankle, but we're hoping to get her back for the next NESCAC weekend in CT!

For her efforts over the week, Becca was named the NESCAC player of the week!  Congrats to her, and the team for going 4-0 on the week.  I'm most proud, however, of the resilience they showed over the weekend with our situation, and not letting it get to them.  They stayed strong, and just focused on what we can control, and for that, I'm very proud of them.  That mental toughness is what we need to see continue to take us where we want to go...Onward!

Friday, September 25, 2015

MIDD Downs St. Mikes in 4 Sets on Birthday Wednesday

The Knights came out strong in our only in-state match of the season.  After an early back and forth match tied us 6-6, they blew open an 18-12 lead and looked like they might be in control of the first set.  We showed some freshman power in scoring 6 straight points, three of which were kills by Isabel.  It was tight back and forth the rest of the set until Becca ended it on a kill for the set win.  The second set was more of the same except that after the early ties back and forth, it was us that opened up a 6 point lead 20-14, and then finished it out for the 25-19 win to go up 2-0 in sets.

The third set was tight the whole way, and they really got some good kills from their go-to hitters and hit .243 as a team for that set.  We fought well, and stayed tight, but couldn't come up with the points (or perhaps digs or blocks...) when we needed them at the end.  The fourth set belonged solely to us, however.  They were going hard to the middle, but we really shut them down, holding them to a hitting % of .029 while we hit a .333 for the strong finish at 25-14.

Becca had an all-around great match with 17 kills, 16 digs and a hitting % of .349.  Eliana had a great offensive game as well with 13 kills (.346), 2 assists and a service ace.  Charlotte and Isabel both had three aces behind the service line, while Charlotte also added a team high 24 digs.  Gabi added 7 kills hitting at .278, and had 2 blocks along with Isabel.  Mel lead the team with 3 blocks, although they did out-block us as a team 14-9.  We really played well and could see some great glimpses of the team we can be, which was great.  We were scrappy, energetic, enthusiastic and together, and that's what we need to have every time we step on the court.

Although the win was great, the highlight of the night might have been our dessert after the match.  We had two rookie birthdays on the 23rd!  And, they were not turning the same age--one 18, and one 19!  It's not every day that happens, but we were treated to two boxes of great cupcakes from Otter Creek Bakery!  YUM!  Happy Birthday, ladies!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Midd Drops First Conference Match, Goes 2-1 on Weekend

The Bowdoin match was a tough one to lose.  We were competitive, but not quite all together enough to pull out the victory here in our Home opener.  The stats and writeup can be found here:  Bowdoin Match.  I'm sorry for the lack of details, and late write-up, but I'm playing catch-up myself, and getting prepared for the weekend. Mel lead all players in blocks with 8, and Becca and Isabel lead the team with double digit kills.  Hannah led the team in digs, while Becca continued her strong stand behind the service line getting 2 aces.

The following day, we rebounded well to win both of our non-conference games.  Cortland State proved to be a very formidable opponent despite our early success with them.  This is the first time we've beaten Cortland State, who has often been an NCAA regional opponent for us in the past.  We cruised out to a 2-0 start behind strong play on our side, and many errors on theirs, only to find ourselves in a 5th set an hour later.  It was a very long match, but worth it when we pulled out a 15-13 5th set on a decisive block by Gabi and Eliana.  We weren't terribly sharp, but we did what we needed to do at crunch time, in the very end, anyway.   Again, Becca led the way with 20 kills, while it was Gabi's turn to lead the team in blocks with 6.  Hannah had 4 service aces and Charlotte had 16 digs for us in the long win.

We seem to be still finding our way, which is fine, as long as we keep taking steps forward.  Here are the links to those matches as well:  Cortland State, and Colby-Sawyer.  Colby-Sawyer didn't pose much of a threat, however, all of us that were here for our pre-game vending machine escapade which resulted in a 5 set loss to them last year had some revenge on our minds.  We played very disciplined volleyball and that was good to see.  We had a plan and we executed it pretty well, which we'll need to do moving forward. 

Tonight we go up to Burlington, VT to play St. Mikes in a mid week match.  They are a Division II team that's playing very well right now, so this will be a good challenge, and will be good to prepare us for more Conference play this weekend when we travel to Hamilton.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

MIDD Falls to Tough Union Team in 5 Set Duel

Our first mid-week road trip was a long one.  At least we still weren't in classes, but everyone did have to get up early (or most everyone) for their first day of class after a late return.  We knew Union was going to be a tough match, and unfortunately we provided them with their 5th 5 set victory so far on the young season.  We eased into a 1st set victory, but battled the rest of the way for scores of 20-25, 25-23, 20-25, and 11-15.

We saw some play from two of our freshmen for the first time this season, and both Isabel and Sarah came ready to play and showed no signs of "being freshmen" on the court.  Although the setback was a real bummer, I remain very optimistic about our options and outlook on the season. 

Our passing wasn't quite consistent enough to run our middles as much as we'd like, but we did get big numbers out of our outsides.  Becca continued leading the team with 16 kills and 11 digs to go with her 3 service aces.  Isabel's introduction to college ball was a success pacing the team with the next most kills at 10 (and her first collegiate set, she crushed the ball straight to the floor in front of the unsuspecting defender, which as fun!)  We blocked well as a team with Mel setting a school record of 9 block assists to lead the team, along with 5 from Eliana and 3 from Hannah.  Emily led our team in digs again, playing in her newly converted position of libero, followed by Hannah with 18, and both Becca and Jen getting 11 digs apiece.  Overall, we had too many service errors, and too many hitting errors as we only connected for a hitting % of .112 and committed 12 service errors. 

If you look at the numbers, we held a slight edge in most categories--our hitting % was slightly higher, we edged them in total blocks, very slight advantages in service aces and reception errors, but I guess we just didn't finish.  Looking back at the film, however, we were staying aggressive to the end, which is what we want.  We got blocked a couple times as the match closed out, but we were still swinging hard, which is good.  Full Stats link here.

This weekend is our first home stand, and opening weekend for Conference play.  We host Bowdoin on Friday night, and then play a non-Conference tri-match on Saturday with Cortland State, and Colby-Sawyer.  Should be a very competitive weekend of volleyball, and a lot of fun, especially to be home!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

MIDD Sweeps Smith Tournament

Our opening weekend went off without a hitch, except that we were without our freshmen, which is always a bummer, but Orientation takes precedence, and we all understand that.  I think they all enjoyed their respective experiences, although the rain did "dampen" them a bit... Sorry, I couldn't resist. We took all nine of our returners down for the tournament, and all nine played in every set, I believe, which was nice.

Our opening match on Friday night against Manahttanville, we got off to a great start and were clicking right from the start to take set one fairly easily.  We played pretty well and finished the match off with a straight set sweep, and headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep. Only one room had a triple, which is a bit of a luxury for us, and we had Gary as a bus driver, so we were in good hands!

The next morning we kicked off our tradition of a Dunkin stop if we play well the night before, and we even took a picture to send to our SID for the Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever our social media outlets are, so good job, Charlotte (our social media liaison!)

Once back at the gym we took no time in getting started again and took three straight sets from Ursinus.  Since our match ended pretty quickly, we got to watch the end of the Smith match before playing them, and then quickly took three straight sets from them as well for the clean sweep on the weekend. Smith gave us a bit more of a challenge, but we were up for it.

Becca and Melanie were named all tournament team for their efforts, but really everyone had a great weekend.  Even though everyone was returning, several players were stepping into starting roles for the first time, or starting in a different spot, so it was great to see the team communicating and working together.

We are excited to be under way with our season, and we have a big week ahead of us with Union away on Tuesday, and then Bowdoin on Friday at home.   Saturday we host a tri-match with Cortland State and Colby-Sawyer, so all week will pose some great challenges for us and should really test us to see where we are right now.

I'm very optimistic about our team this year, and looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead for us.  It'll also be nice to have our full team with us as we have many options this year, and it's going to be fun to start to put the puzzle together.  Stay tuned...