Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lindsay Honored as a Top Senior in New England

Last weekend Lindsay Patterson participated in the New England Senior Classic held at Wellesley College. It's in conjunction with the NEWVA coaches meeting, and is held to honor the top 20 or so seniors in New England. We know there is some pretty tough competition within NESCAC, let alone within all of New England, so this is a very nice honor. Congratulations to Lindsay on a great career as a MIDDLEBURY PANTHER!! We'll miss you, but are very proud of all you have given to the Program! Congrats again!

More Jane in the News!!

Jane has been racking up the honors this season, and the final one just came in, I think. Our Fab. Frosh found herself on the Honorable Mention All-American list!! CONGRATS to Jane for that very nice honor. We're very proud of her for all of her accomplishments, and that is a great topper to a very nice first season!! Way to go, Jane!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jane is NESCAC & New England Rookie of the Year

Jane, along with Caroline started to redefine our offense this year, and consequently were a large part of our success. As a freshman, Jane was 2nd in the Conference in Kills, and 8th in Service Aces. She was NESCAC Player of the Week for Oct. 20th, and was consistently our offensive leader all year. She was recently recognized for her efforts this year by being honored with the following awards:

NESCAC Rookie of the Year
AVCA New England Rookie of the Year (American Volleyball Coaches Association)
NEWVA Rookie of the Year (New England Womens' Volleyball Association)
Congratulations to Jane for these outstanding achievements!!

MIDD VB in local newspaper

These were pictures and captions in the local newspaper, the Addison Independent, after our last regular season home match with Williams on Oct. 29, 2008.

"MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE FRESHMAN Elissa Goeke, far right, celebrates with volleyball teammates Olivia Minkhorst, Jane Handel, Natalie Dupre and Caroline Cordle after scoring a point for the Panthers during a match with Williams last Wednesday night. Handel, upper left, was NESCAC player of the week for the week of Oct. 20, when Middlebury went 4-0."

Independent photos/Trent Campbell

"MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SOPHOMORES Lauren Barrett, and Whitney Bean get their hands up in front of a Williams spike and freshman Jane Handel, below, scores a kill during volleyball action last week. The Panther volleyball team has won eight of its last nine matches as it heads to the NESCAC playoffs this weekend."
Independent photos/Trent Campbell

Sunday, November 9, 2008

MIDD Ends Season in NESCAC Quarterfinals

As the #5 seed heading into the Tournament, we felt very good facing the #4 seed Williams. We'd just played them last week on Senior night, and even though we lost a very close match with them, we felt like we could not only play with them, but also beat them. They'd had injuries and had people playing different positions, and in general seemed to be a little "off," and we thought that with our team this year, that was all we needed to come out on top of that match-up. Well, they were ON their game on Friday night. Despite some great performances by our team we came up short.

We faced an early set-back as Natalie injured her eye during warm-ups and eventually told us that pretty much everything to her right was blurry. Reisa could play 3 of the rotations as Libero, but we couldn't make a switch until the next game. On top of that, the two big hitters for Williams were on fire. They were getting good passes, and they really overpowered us with that offense. Those two in particular were hitting over our block, and making our defensive assignments very tough.

We had some fantastic individual performances with Reisa really stepping up as the Libero and playing great defense! Lindsay was again the one who was bringing everyone together and keeping people focused and motivated to win every point. She had a game at Libero too, in hopes that we could stabilize our serve receive, but then Reisa came in and did a great job allowing Lindsay to play all the way around again. The freshman duo of Jane and Caroline did an excellent job putting pressure on their defense with some great, powerful shots. Unfortunately, they actually dug a lot of those, and at least were able to keep those balls in play that normally would have gone down for kills. Our middles also played well, and despite being #1 and #2 individually in the Conference in blocks, were not able to come up with many blocks that night. The important effect that those two had on channeling the hits around them, however, never will show up in the stats, and that's what they did all night. The Eph hitters may hit over our outside blockers some, but they usually can't get over our middles. Once we moved the block out a little more it helped us position our defense a little better, but it still wasn't enough to match Williams offensive strengths.

It's been a wonderful season, and it's always sad to see it come to an end. We had enormous fan support this weekend as parents from at least 6 players were here from all over the country! Thank you FANS!! We have a great mix of classes now, and we will certainly miss our FOUR seniors next year!! The good news, and the up-side of losing 4 seniors is that the underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) comprise the bulk of our offense. With Lauren and Whitney as the sophomores, and Jane, Caroline and Elissa all freshmen, we have a lot of starters coming back for next year, which is very exciting, not to mention a pretty full bench to round out what has been our strongest team in recent years.

I may have some pictures coming, and here is a link to the pictures that Ellen's mom took from this weekend--thank you, Anne!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

BUSY Last Week for Panthers

In our last four days of the regular season we played four Conference Matches. It seems I have a lot to catch up on here. We lost to Williams in our last home game of the year, but it was a great night in other ways: it was our return to Pepin! and it was Senior Night! The Bubble has been a great place to practice given that the gym wasn't available, but we were all very excited to say the least to be back on the hardwood for our last home game. The atmosphere in Pepin is just much better, and the floor looks fabulous!

Our FOUR seniors have racked up some pretty nice honors, with three of them having been named All-NESCAC Academic last year, and Olivia holding the school record for the most digs in a singe match with 44! They have also won the AVCA Team Academic Award every year, which is an impressive achievement. Mallory sang the National Anthem with some of her a capella group, the Mischords, and Lexie read our senior night write-up and starting line-ups. I was even the recipient of some very unexpected flowers from the Patterson's. Lacee, Susie and Danny were all here to witness Lindsay's final home appearance, and Josie had an Aunt and Uncle here for her, but Kate and Olivia's families weren't able to make it.

This past weekend we played all three Maine schools to finish out the Regular Season. We swept Bowdoin with two come-from-behind games to get our weekend off on a good note. The next day, Bates came out on fire, and overpowered us in the first set of that match before we got our act together and took the next three somewhat handily. After that match, we completely outplayed Colby for two games, and then with their season hanging in the balance, Colby fought back into the match by taking set three, and making a real go at set 4. We were able to hold them off in the fourth to take the match, and with that win, Bates then surpassed Colby for the last spot in the 8 team Tournament.

Our wins this weekend put us at 6-4 overall, and good enough for the 5th seed next weekend, playing Williams. Despite having just played them and lost a tough match, we are very excited to play them again. This is the highest seed we've had in the last few years, and we're very much looking forward to our Friday night match-up with the purple cows!!

The other fun things that happened this weekend were the following (in no particular order):

Lauren's mom brought us dinner goodies, AGAIN!!! Thank you!!
The Patterson's, Barrett's, and the Goeke's were all there to cheer us on!
We (FINALLY, Ellen) got to go to Panerra for dinner!
We had a candy exchange on the bus--yummy.
We watched some, well, interesting movies.
We decided that only Ollie can run the DVD machine on the bus.
We had a very fun "social hour" on our ride home--it felt like it took HOURS, oh, it DID take hours!
The moon was beautiful as we pulled away from Colby before our 6 hour return bus ride.
The coaches won the first competition of the weekend--an informal costume contest featuring our travel group against the Maine group.
The Colby Head Coach had her baby on Friday morning, and still managed to show up for our match with them on Saturday afternoon, although she wasn't on the bench.
Molly kicked my tush on our run on Saturday morning, again.
Lauren knocked the nice map of Maine off the wall in the Hotel Lobby. (NO harm done!)
Lindsay's mom bought us snacks for between games! Thank you!!
Bates exploded with delight after we beat Colby once they knew for sure that that meant they were in the tournament for the first time in years!

Pictures will follow later this week.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jane is NESCAC Player of the Week!!

Congratulations to our very own Jane Handel, who was named the NESCAC Volleyball Player of the Week last week! This is very exciting, as the competition for this honor is very tough! I don't think Middlebury has had a Player of the week for, well, too long?! Here is what the write-up said:

"Middlebury College women’s volleyball player Jane Handel (Evanston, Ill.) has been named the NESCAC Player of the Week. Handel continued an impressive rookie season by having a steady week for a Panther team that went 4-0 and won the Silver Bracket of the Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament. Handel averaged 3.70 kills and 3.30 digs per set while hitting at a .366 rate to go along with five aces and a pair of blocks. The Panthers will play their final home match of the season on Wednesday, October 29th against Williams at 7:00 p.m."

Way to go Jane. As I told the team, this is an honor not only for Jane, but for the team as well, because as any good hitter knows, you have to have good defense, and a good setter to be the best hitter you can be, so way to go TEAM too!! BEAT WILLIAMS!!

Also, there are new links up for pictures, courtesy of Ellen's mom, and also Caroline Monniger, so check them out. There are some great pics! BEAT WILLIAMS!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Clean Sweep to Win Silver Bracket; Lindsay MVP

Our goal heading into the weekend was to come away undefeated, and undefeated we were, in real style! We didn't lose a single game, and no one scored more than 17 points against us in any game all weekend! We were seeded first in the Silver Bracket, or 9th overall going in, and we felt like we could have been seeded higher, and put somewhere in the Gold Bracket. But we also felt like we hadn't come up with a key win since early in the season when we beat Conn and Trinity, and maybe this was a chance to prove ourselves? If not prove ourselves to "others," it provided an opportunity for us to gain some confidence, and prove to ourselves what kind of team we can be. We've played a very tough schedule, and have lost some very close matches, and really haven't had many easy wins, so we also felt like this could work out OK if we were able to get our game really clicking and have good success against all of these other teams. We wanted to put everything together this weekend to help prepare us for our last week where we'll face four Conference foes in the last four days of the regular season. I think we accomplished our goal of being sharp, and putting together consistent play throughout the weekend.

Whitney rejoined us in practice on Thursday night for the first time in several weeks, so that was fun!! She looked great, and you'd never know that she'd been out for that long--she didn't miss a beat! Team now totally intact, we headed down to Mt. Holyoke to win our Bracket, starting with Mt. Holyoke on Friday night! As the #1 seed, we guessed that Mt. Holyoke might not give us a great game, but I'm not sure we expected to wipe the slate clean without letting anyone even score in the high teens against us?! Everyone on our team played, and contributed in almost every match! That was FUN!! We looked sharp, and it was a great time in the season for EVERYONE to contribute. Going into the final stretch, it's important to know that everyone is ready to go, and we confirmed that this weekend!

To top it all off, Lindsay Patterson was named Silver Bracket MVP! Lindsay had a great weekend, both offensively and defensively! Not only that, she is the backbone of our team in so many ways, it was really nice to see her get publicly recognized for her efforts! Congrats Lindsay!

On another note, we had a few fun surprise visits down there! Well, one of them was a fun surprise for me, but not to Kate! The team went to the locker room when we arrived Friday night, and I walked into the gym, and sitting there alone in the gym as the basketball team finished sprints were Mr. and Mrs. and Amy Heath! Kate's parents, along with big sis Amy were there for the weekend to watch Kate for the last time in her college career. Amy is headed off to Germany for three months, and her parents won't be able to make it to any of our remaining games, so that was certainly a fun weekend for them to see. Also, we had a brief visit from Lauren's mom (of course--she watches more volleyball between all her girls then even me, I think?!); Elissa's parents (who may be our best fans?!); Ellen's parents were there for Saturday's games, and we had a surprise visit from Ellen Dickson ('08) who happened to be getting fit for her wedding gown literally across the street from the Athletic Complex. She apparently saw the bus pull in with VT plates, and ordered her mom to pull in behind it! Shrieks of joy were let out upon seeing them, and that was a fun start to our Saturday! Congrats to Ellen, who is due to be married to her long-time sweetheart Andy later this Fall!!

We didn't get home all that late, even though it was absolutely POURING RAIN. AND, we got our Pad Thai after all! What a treat. Only 5 of us ended up getting it, but others got the Mexican they were craving, and we even had some great "treats" from Kate's mom, and Ellen's mom: the HUGE cookie cake from Ellen, and Mrs. Heath's signature chocolate covered pretzels among some other goodies! (At least I think they're from the mom's. You never know--it was Ellen Dickson's DAD who used to bake all the goodies then!)

Needless to say, I think we boosted our confidence this weekend, and we should actually feel rested and ready to put it all out there for our last few matches! It should be a very exciting race to the finish line, as Williams, Bowdoin and MIDD are all searching for a higher seed in the tournament, and Bates and Colby are looking to try to scrape their way into the Tournament. That all adds up to some fierce competition, and some great matches! It doesn't get much better than this. As I've written before, our destiny is entirely in our own hands, which is exactly where we want it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flip-Flops & Athletes: A Bad Combination

Well, I have actual, printed substantiation to back up the decision that Rachel (our Trainer) and I came up with last year when we made a new team rule banning flip-flops. This is an article from Training &Conditioning from October 2008.

"Flip-Flops & Athletes: A Bad Combination"

It's not hard to imagine why flip-flops can be bad for your feet, since they offer very little cushioning and virtually no arch support. But now, research from Auburn University's Department of Kinesiology provides specific data about how flip-flops can affect athletes who wear them.

"There's plenty of anecdotal information out there that says flip-flops can cause problems," says graduate student Justin Shroyer, MA, CSCS, who co-wrote Auburn's flip-flop study with Professor Wendi Weimar, PhD. "We wanted to look at them scientifically to see what effects they have."

In the study, researchers analyzed the way 39 college-age men and women walked while wearing flip-flops, then compared it to the way they walked in athletic shoes. With flip-flops, subjects took shorter strides, hit the ground with less vertical force, and increased the "attack angle" of their ankles during the leg's swing phase. When participants switched to sneakers, some of the gait changes remained, causing discomfort.

The study raises questions that Shroyer and Weimar would like to answer with further research: How do muscle recruitment patterns differ when wearing flip-flops versus athletic shoes? Does the shortened stride put athletes at risk for injury? How much energy do foot muscles have to use to grip the flip-flop? Does the flip-flop step cause muscles to work harder?

Shroyer stops short of drawing too many conclusions from the initial study, and hasn't yet tossed his own flip-flops. But he does caution athletes against wearing them all day long. "Flip-flops were made for the beach, the pool, and the shower, and that's where they should be worn," he says. "There are some great things about flip-flops: They're easy to take off and put on, and they help keep feet cool. But they're not the best choice for everyday footwear.

"If athletic trainers are trying to provide an optimal environment for their athletes, they'll want to eliminate anything counterproductive," adds Shroyer. "If athletes want to keep wearing flip-flops, they should look for ones with more arch support and a thicker cushion. And they should replace them every three or four months. If they have to break out the duct tape, they've gone way too far."

Thank you, Rachel, for giving me this article. This helps spell out why we've done away with wearing flip-flops during our season!! It made complete sense to me when Rachel and I talked about it last year, but this just gives us more printed support. Right now, it's too cold to wear them anyway, or should be, so this team rule helps confine the flip-flop wearing of the team to the times when they were designed for: summer months at the beach!

Panthers Blank Plymouth State

It was the Panthers of MIDD vs. the Panthers of Plymouth State in our last home game in the Bubble....ever! It's been a great facility for us, actually, and I think we gave it a decent farewell, even though we'll continue to practice in there. We started off very strong, which was nice to see as we haven't always done that this year. We served them tough, and got some great hits from the OH early on. Even though we served well, we also gave up an early string of points to them to neutralize the lead we had just built. After exchanging points, we then took control of the tempo again, and started to put them away. We knew that their offense was mostly run through the middle, and they couldn't get their passes up early to be able to run middle, and we capitalized on that. We were dictating the tempo for the most part, which is what we wanted to do.

Their defense stabilized a bit in the second game, and we made some unforced errors, in addition to not taking care of junk balls that they gave us, and thus we weren't able to keep the pressure on them like we wanted. This allowed them to run the middle more, which gave us some trouble at first. Eventually, we started to block that hit, and also dig it more successfully, and thus ran off with the last game fairly easily. The good news for us in the 2nd game was that we came from behind to win that game. We were down 19-22, and came back to tie it at 23, and won it 25-23. We looked calm, and confident which is exactly how we need to be at this point in the season.

We're off to the Hall of Fame Tournament this weekend, and then our last four matches of the season are all Conference Matches!! Senior Night we'll be back in Pepin--Hooray!! We're very excited, as our destiny is completely in our own hands! That's certainly the position you want to be in at this stage!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

MIDD Splits NESCAC Weekend at Amherst

We entered Amherst feeling ready to pull an upset, but didn't quite bring our game to go with our talk, unfortunately. We had trouble passing, and then couldn't get anything going offensively until the 3rd game, and at that point it was too little too late. It was a night that saw all three of our power outside hitters hit for negative percentages, and the middles were only slightly better. Elissa Goeke and Kate Heath provided the only real bright spots on the night as Elissa had 6 blocks, and Kate was the only hitter on the team without a hitting error on the night. We ran Lauren all over the court in an effort to run our offense, and we ran Natalie all over the backcourt trying to dig balls that we we couldn't get a hand on at the net. Well, I guess those things happen sometimes. To give Amherst credit, they were on their game, and were forcing the action all night.

Fortunately, we came out ready to play the next afternoon. After a feast compliments of Lauren's parents (AGAIN!--Thank you!!), we slept in and then had a leisurely morning around Amherst before meeting back at the gym at noon to prepare for Hamilton. The team had a meeting with the captains beforhand, and got everyone in the right mind-set, and we overpowered a much weaker Hamilton team. The good news for us was that everyone played, and with every sub, the level of our game improved, which was great to see. We started to click, and even though it's much easier against a weaker team, it's also easy to get lulled into not being sharp, and I think we improved our sharpness as the match went on.

We have two more dual matches, and two more weekends before the Conference Tournament, and half of those remaining matches are Conference ones, so it'll be a fun race to the finish this year as the Conference is once again all mixed up. There is so much parity, it'll likely all come down to that final weekend of Conference play. We're looking forward to our practices to continue to work on what we've identified will help us be successful down the stretch here, and can't wait to get those uniforms back on again to put it to the test.

Monday, October 13, 2008

MIDD Falls to NESCAC Leader Tufts in 4 Sets

Oct Break is on, and campus had thinned out as Tufts traveled to MIDD for the Conference match on Sunday. Tufts was coming off a 3 set sweep of Amherst on Saturday night, and we felt ready for whatever game they brought on Sunday. We may have been too amped up for the match, as we were tight to start off with and amidst serving out several times, we also were over-passing and making unforced errors. We settled in nicely in the 2nd set to take that one 25-20, and we started to play OUR game. However, we once again dug ourselves a hole in the 3rd, but were making a great comeback sitting on set point, but came up a point shy of tying it at 24 to lose 23-25. The momentum had definitely shifted in our favor, and we had made a couple of strategic adjustments that we felt were helping, and had gained an 18-14 edge at one point in the 4th set. That lead would slip away, and see us only score 3 more points down the stretch to lose that deciding set 21-25.

We are doing a lot of great things, but we need to string them together into a whole match. There will always be errors, and mistakes, but we're trying to focus on how we react to those errors, and getting in positions where we are able to stop runs by the other team a little sooner, so that they maybe only get 2-3 points at a time, not 4-5. They are a good team, but we feel like if we can improve on a couple of key areas, and keep plugging away at our strengths, then we should be where we want to be heading into the last half of our Conference play. We will also welcome Reisa back to the team when we start practice again on Tuesday after being away to deal with a family matter, and will hopefully get Whitney back in practice gear the following week. That will put us at full strength again for both practice and matches, which will be nice for all of us.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Colby-Sawyer Out-Nudges Panthers in 5 Sets

We got off to a very slow start over in New London, NH. The fact that half of my van wasn't even sure if we were headed to NY, or NH , or maybe even CT may have contributed to that slow start?! It was a fairly messy game to start out with, both ways, but they had the advantage blocking us for sure. We started to settle down a little in the 2nd set, but still were somewhat out of sorts. We put Caroline in for Jane, and that gave us a lift, but we still weren't quite clicking. Kate had been doing a nice job blocking and hitting, but we wanted to get Jane back in the game, so we put her at Right Side, and left Caroline to contend with the big block that had somewhat stymied us early on. Caroline started to get it all figured out and tipped that big block a few times, ripped a couple line, and hard cross, and also found the seam between the blockers and really started to get us going.

After narrowly capturing the 3rd set to prolong the match, we handily beat them in the 4th, setting up the 5th and deciding set. They came out stronger than we did, and we couldn't quite set the block such that our defense was solid behind it, and the game winner ended up being a hit from the middle that had hurt us all night. That being said, we had dug ourselves a hole and had gotten behind by about 4 points before Caroline put three balls down in a row to get us right back in the match! All in all, it was a good match for the last three sets, but getting off to that slow start really hurt us in the long run. Colby-Sawyer is a good team, but no better than what we have left to face in our own Conference, starting with Tufts on Sunday! We're hoping to keep learning from each match, and each day in practice so that we keep progressing day by day to be peaking at the end of the season. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

MIDD Overpowers Norwich

It was a gorgeous fall day when we headed over the mountains to play Norwich University. That was a good thing, too. If you've ever tried to get to Norwich from Middlebury, you'd know that the quickest way to go is straight. Straight over two mountain gaps, that is. We coaxed our big college van to get up and over those gaps, and we all survived the trip--all of us in that one big van! Those looking out and awake on the way over got treated to some of Vermont's finest views, which was fun.

As for the volleyball, we dominated the first and third games with everyone seeing action! The second game, however, was a different story. After defeating them easily in the first game, I think we got lulled into thinking they couldn't play, and when they did it's like we weren't sure what to do. Anyway, we fell behind and stayed behind for most of that game. At 16-20 we called our final timeout, and simply said to stop worrying about being behind. Relax, breathe and just play your game one point at a time. This apparently worked as we ran off a few points and then tied the game at 23-23. After trading points back and forth, we finally pulled out the game 29-27, and then cruised to an easy victory in the 3rd.

A real highlight for the team was Caroline's 15 kills with no errors on only 21 swings in only two games. That was fun to watch! Other highlights were: Mallory and Natalie had good serving runs, Molly hit 100% in the 3rd game, and Ellen came in at the end of the match to tally 3 assists in the last 5 points of the match. It was a great team effort and we showed some tough grit to come back in that 2nd game after playing so poorly the first 2/3rds of that game.

We have a big weekend coming up with an away match against Colby-Sawyer on Friday night, and then hosting Tufts in a Conference match on Sunday. We're ready for the challenge, and will have mid-terms behind us by then, which will be nice.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dig Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness!

DIG PINK is a National Breast Cancer awareness initiative that Volleyball teams across the country are participating in during the month of October. Skidmore College was kicking off the month by raising money for the Digs their team tallied during our match with them on October 1. We brought pink balloons to tie on each end of the benches. Lexie Fisher presented them to the Head Coach from Skidmore before the match. We also donated $1 for each of our team digs in the match. We ended up tallying a whopping 93 digs in our 5 set match, and the captains presented the Skidmore Head Coach with the money after our match. Way to go MIDD and Skidmore for contributing to this very worthy cause!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

MIDD Drops Tough 5-Set Match to Skidmore

It was a rainy Wednesday when we ventured over to NY to face a Skidmore team that was very similar to last year. Their offense was dominated by their outside hitters, and I felt like we should match up well defensively. I think we outmatched them in the Middle, but didn't really take full advantage of that. That being said, however, Whitney Bean did set a new school record for the most number of Block Assists in a single match with 9! Congrats Whit!

We started off a little slowly, dropping the first game, and almost took the 2nd, but lost on what I still think was the wrong call (and I really don't say that very often!) It was a tough way to lose at 25-27. Anyway, we found ourselves down 0-2, but feeling like we could totally play with this team.

Our heart and soul came through in the 3rd game with our backs against the wall, facing possible elimination in three straight, we fought them off to narrowly win that game 27-25. We then dominated the 4th as we continued to keep pressing, and they had a little mental lapse that saw one of their main hitters tank a little, and their serve receive struggled also. We'd like to think it was all our pressure, but to be fair, I think it was a combination of both.

The 5th game being only to 15, we knew it was important to get out to a good start. It was tied at 3-3, and then they rallied off a few points, and then we pretty much stayed behind by 2-3 pts. until we finally lost 11-15. It was certainly not what we had in mind, but looking at the positive side of things: they are a very good team, and we had the opportunity to fold in the 3rd game and didn't, which was a great thing. We're now 1-3 in 5 game matches, and we'd love to have that reversed, but I think we've learned a lot from all of those matches.

We had the weekend off now (our only one this season), and some crazy scores have been posting from around the league, so there is still a lot of exciting volleyball left to be played this year!! It was great that our weekend off fell on Parents Weekend. We had quite a few people watching practice on Friday between recruits and parents--it was almost like a match. This time, there was more at stake than just winning, however. Since we all had the weekend off, the winners of the scrimmage match won a home-baked apple pie from Coach, so the competition was fierce! :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Good Weekend at Amherst Classic

We played pretty well overall at the Amherst Classic, going 2-1 for the weekend. We outmatched Westfield State on Friday night, and that proved to be the easiest of our three matches. After a very interesting, fun, and varied dinner at the Whole Foods hot-bar, we returned to our hotel to have an early night, which was a nice treat for us. (I had never been to Whole Foods, and the choices were tremendous! Thanks to Jane's mom, who provided food galore for us the next day, we could splurge a little at Whole Foods, which was a nice luxury too! And, she bought us a bunch of cookies for dessert too--thank you!!)

On Saturday morning we faced Amherst for the second time so far this year (one more to go!). We were much more poised this time playing them, and despite losing the first two games by narrow margins, we came out still fighting to win every point in the 3rd game. Our serve receive at times was the best it's been in a long time, which was GREAT to see. Behind that great serve receive, and very solid defense, our offense was allowed to shine a bit, and we took the 3rd game from them, somewhat handily. We just had our game clicking, and kept the pressure on them, and caught them out of sorts, and just overpowered them in that game. Unfortunately, that didn't last long, and they stormed back and caught us almost off-guard, it seemed, to take the game winner by a substantial margin.

Brian commented after that match, however, that at points, he thought our serve receive looked better than it has in any of the 6 seasons he's worked at Middlebury. I think we all felt good about that, and we look forward to keeping and building on that success!

Our final match of the weekend was against Brandeis, and we knew it would be another tough match-up. After losing the first game by a narrow margin, we rebounded very well, and were able to win the next two games somewhat handily. We had a tough fight on our hands in the 4th game as they were not going to just roll over. We prevailed behind both a mammoth performance from an individual, and some great balance with the rest of the team, including some excellent bench play.

Jane had a huge game posting 24 kills in the 4-game victory. This, we've now found out, ties her for 5th in the all-time history of MIDD Volleyball for kills in a single match. That was exciting, and her mom was here from Chicago to see it, which was even nicer. We had strong bench play, and our defense continues to empower our offense, which is always nice to see.

I wouldn't be telling the whole story of visiting Amherst if I didn't mention what we had to eat on the way home. Not only did we have all of Jane's mom's food that was leftover (bars, snacks, gatorade, fruit, etc.), but we also had homemade goodies from Lauren's mom, and Ellen's mom!! Needless to say, we had dessert taken care of! We all pretty much love the options in Amherst, and we have some different favorites. Several people headed off the the Black Sheep for some amazing deli sandwiches, while a couple went for Burritos. Reisa and I were looking for some pad thai, and Josie was looking for some curry, but the good Thai place didn't open for another 15 minutes, and we really wanted to get on the road--next time! I went for the Noodles Shop Pad Thai, which is good, but not as good as the other place, and Josie ended up with Mexican. We all were very satisfied, and enjoyed just laughing and watching movies on the way home.

Our lone match this week coming up is against Skidmore, and then we have our one weekend off, which will be a nice break for all, especially since it's Fall Family Weekend!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Home Opener in the Bubble is Tough Loss to Union

The home opener proved to be quite the match! We had a good crowd that found us at our new home in the Bubble, which was great. Union was coming in at 16-1, and took the first game 27-29, even though you only play to 25. It kept going back and forth with both teams about to run out of subs before Union pulled out the victory. That first game was a good indication of what was to come the rest of the night. The next 3 games flip-flopped winners, all with scores of 18-25, with us winning two of the three to tie it at 2-2. We had gotten off to slow starts in every game, and the worst time to have that happen is in a 5th game. That's exactly what we did, unfortunately. We fought back, but eventually ran up against the wall of 15 sooner, and dropped the last game 11-15. It was a night that saw a lot of good attacking, and tough serving on both sides, but we felt like the "out of system" plays needed to be better on our side. We had a balanced attack again, with a large part of our offense coming from Jane and Lindsay, both with 17 Kills. Kate, Whit, and Elissa all came through with solid hitting games with 7, 8, and 6 kills apiece. Natalie, Reisa and Olivia all anchored the defense tonight, and served tough, which really took them out of the game they wanted to play quite a bit. We scrambled well, and kept a lot of balls in play, which was great to see defensively. it's a tough loss to have at home, but we'll be back at practice tomorrow to keep fine-tuning and honing our skills to take back on the road this weekend when we go to the Amherst Classic.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Good Showing at First NESCAC Weekend

We traveled to Hamilton to face the three Connecticut Schools. Yes, that's a typical NESCAC weekend for us, even though it rarely makes sense to anyone else. We opened with Trinity, who has been a thorn in our sides for quite a few years! A splinter in our foot may be more appropriate. We've had multiple 5 game matches with them over the last several years. I believe that we've lost most of those, if not all of them the last few years, but NOT THIS TIME!

It was another grueling, albeit ugly match between us, with both teams tipping, batting and scrambling to try to keep the ball in play. There were spells of good hitting, but that wouldn't appropriately describe the match as a whole. After falling behind 2 games to 1, AND trailing 22-17 in the 4th, we showed what Heart and Soul and MIDD PRIDE can do, and we pulled out that 4th game, and then cruised to a win in the 5th! It was very exciting for us all, and for a coach, the best thing was the Heart that the team showed in just digging deep, and finding it within themselves to pull out that victory. We had a very balanced attack in this match, with five people having 5 or more Kills (Lindsay, Jane, Lauren, Kate and Whit). Our defense was balanced with everyone contributing, and both Ollie and Reisa did a nice job helping our defensive efforts both with serve receive, and with digging the junk that they were dishing out, although they were trying to tip us to death! Nat was our defensive anchor again with 28 digs.

We were the last ones to leave the gym that night due to the long match, and it was very nearly 10:00 pm when we finished, maybe even later. Lindsay's parents were so kind as to bring food to the match for us to just take back to the hotel and eat--that was a godsend!! After that, we had a relaxing and easy morning. We slept in and then had a team breakfast around 10:00, which is a luxury for a weekend like this. We arrived early to the gym so we could check out what was happening in the early matches, and then we faced Conn. at 1:30.

We came out pretty sharp and ready to go, and won the first two matches by narrow margins, but we felt we were in control of the match. Perhaps that feeling went to our heads a bit, because we failed to come out in the third game with the same fire and desire as the first two, and actually lost rather badly that game. Fortunately, we recovered quickly, and bounced back to win the 4th to take a decisive victory over them. We were led statistically by our outsides, Lindsay and Jane with double digit Kills each, and Elissa and Whit combined for 4 and 5 blocks respectively. Also, Natalie came through with a huge defensive game with 31 digs.

Our last match of the weekend proved to be our toughest, both mentally and physically. Facing a very tough Wesleyan team who had just been defeated by Williams prior to our match, we came out firing away. We took the first game decisively, and knew it was only a matter of time before they woke up out of their funk and started to play. We were prepared for a tough match with them, but we seemed to be showing signs of mental fatigue as much as anything. We played them tough in the 2nd despite their hitters getting more on track. This was the game where we really needed a burst toward the end to fight back to take that game. We couldn't put a string together late, and lost a close one 25-22. Being up 2-0 would have been tough to overcome at that point in the weekend for Wesleyan, but tied 1-1, it was anyone's match. From there, we seemed to have a slow leak, and almost looked as if we were going to throw in the towel, but fortunately we rebounded at the end of the 4th game to make it respectable, despite losing the last three games straight. Elissa had a decent blocking game, but we couldn't get much offense from anywhere except Jane, Lindsay and Whit, with 16, 14, and 6 Kills respectively. Our outside blocks had a tough time, which made our defense cover that much more ground. Also, their OH who is the #1 hitter in our league woke up and blasted us for 17 Kills in the match after a slow first game.

All in all, the weekend was a good success for us as a team. We had left Caroline at home due to health reasons, and it's never good to be missing anyone from a Conference Weekend. I think we all felt good about our accomplishments as a team, and we've started out well at 2-1, but we have a lot of things that we want to work on before we face our next Conference foes. At this point, we're looking forward to our Home Opener on Tuesday night--the first official match in the Bubble! It should be an exciting match against a very tough Union team.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Team Beats St. Michael's

We got off to a somewhat of a rocky start in this match, dropping the first game. Our serve receive struggled a bit, so our offense had trouble getting going also. We made some changes, and I think we started to relax a bit too, which helped in the second game. Game two was pretty much ALL US. They only scored 12 points, and we really looked sharp. Kate Heath came in at the right side and got some good blocks right off the bat, and that helped set the tone for that game. We out-played them in the Middle spot, and got great support from both Lindsay and Jane offensively from the outside. Both Lauren and Kate had 5 Kills from the setter and RH spots, respectively, which provided us with a very balanced attack.

We still need to hone in our blocking, but I think we're making some progress with it. Floor Defense should be a strength of ours, but we're still ironing out some early kinks there also. Our team depth really came through tonight as 12 of our 14 players played in the match. It was a great team win, and we had great contributions from a lot of different people, which is a very good sign. We almost ran out of subs, too, which was new for us. With the new rule changes the allowable subs are down to 12, and I think in the last couple of games we were right at 11. We had great serving support from the bench too, which was nice. St. Micheal's never gave up, though, and to their credit came out in games three and four and kept fighting, despite falling behind repeatedly. We're still working on closing out games more decisively.

Our first NESCAC weekend is coming up this Friday and Saturday, so we're getting geared up for that, and it should be an exciting weekend. We play Trinity first on Friday night, and then Conn. College, and Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon--all played at Hamilton College. We're looking for a little pay-back, as we lost two of these three matches last year in the 5th game.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Season Opens Against Regional Powers

Well, we certainly started the season off with a bang, but not quite the bang we were hoping for. Our first match this season was against the New England Regional winner from last season, and Conference foe Amherst. I'm not exactly sure how to sum it up best, but it was over almost before it started, I think. I'm afraid we may have been shell-shocked. We seemed rusty, nervous, and tight, and they were loose, and firing on all cylinders. We commented after the match that I don't think they gave us one free ball all night, and that was very nearly the truth! They were pounding from the front row and the back row, and never gave us a chance to breathe. It was fairly ugly, so we'll leave it at that.

Amherst may have out-played us on Friday night, but I guarantee that we had a better dinner that night! Thanks to Lauren's gracious family, we all went over to her house for a WONDERFUL dinner. I practically had to drag the team out before midnight so we all could get some sleep. What a nice evening! It did the trick, apparently, as we came to the gym in the morning, and defeated Eastern Connecticut handily in three games. It was great to get a win, and it was great to do it the way we did: using a lot of different people. We're still trying out different combinations to see which ones we like, and which ones work best in different situations etc.

The GREAT news about the team this year is that we have a lot of options! Almost everyone saw action on the court at some point this weekend, and we had a strong showing from our first-years. It's an exciting year because we have a lot of experience with 4 seniors, energetic and talented freshmen, and a host of other upperclassmen to make this the most competitive and deep MIDD team in years. We tried a few different line-ups, and many of them looked good this weekend. Even though we lost two matches, we felt much better about our play as the weekend progressed.

Our last match of the weekend was against host Wellesley, who was also in the Regional Finals last year. They had a powerful offense like Amherst, so we had a challenge in front of us. The good news was that after barely touching a ball with our block against Amherst, we started to get some good touches and even a few stuff blocks. Our defense also started to come around as we dug quite a few of those power blasts, which was great to see. We fought hard to take a game from them, but couldn't quite pull it off, despite Wellesley helping us out by serving into the net several times!

I'm hoping to get some pictures from the weekend up soon, but I wanted to get this out as soon as possible. Despite being so far from home (it took us nearly 5 hours), we had a host of fans, which was really fun! We had parents (and friends/family) for all four of our freshmen there, and also Lauren's parents and older brother who live nearby, so we felt like we had a pretty large cheering section! THANK YOU ALL!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

TEAM does Ropes Course

This was a lot of FUN!! We decided to do a ropes course this year, in part because we had unusual, and not ideal practice facilities, and in part because it's a great team-building exercise. We had a beautiful day, and we did a lot of fun and challenging activities. I think we all experienced an element of challenge, fun, fright, competition, cooperation--oh, and we actually had three C's: cohesion, collaboration, and I forget the last, but will update shortly!

Squad opens with Scrimmage at Plattsburgh

After only 4 days of practice, we thought we'd see where we were against outside competition. We headed over to Plattsburgh, who was 1-4 at the time. It was a successful outing, although we didn't play a real match, just a series of several games. It was informal enough to allow us to stop and explain something on court if we wanted, but formal enough to hopefully get the pre-season jitters out!?! We had strong showings from our returners, and some impressive input from our freshmen class of Ellen Dahlberg, Elissa Goeke, Jane Handel, and Caroline Cordle. I think we're all optimistic about our upcoming season, and will be anxious to head down to Wellesley this weekend where we'll open our season for real. Our first test will be against Amherst on Friday night, and then both Eastern Connecticut and Wellesley on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Whitney Bean wins First Year Achievement Award

Whitney was in the news recently!! She was honored with the First Year Achievement Prize. The First-Year Achievement Prize is awarded annually to a well-rounded first-year student who demonstrates academic excellence and relates well to others. The award is given in the sophomore year, based on the first-year experience. Whitney received a certificate in an awards ceremony in Mitchell Green Lounge last week. The award was presented by Gus Jordan, Associate Dean of the College. (Tim Spears was also there to recognize the award winners, and thus in the picture also.) Congratulations Whit! You're a very deserving candidate!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Five Juniors Studying Abroad This Spring

Well, the stories have been coming in at different times, but Josie (Jr. MH from York, PA) has sent some good photos with hers, so we'll put her in first. Josie has been in China, and has lots of great tales, some of which I won't share here, but let's just say she's having quite the experience! It seems that China is, well, quite a bit different than anything she's experienced here in the States, which is one of the things that makes studying abroad the growing and learning experience that it is. Living there is proving quite different from just traveling around, which is another one of the things that makes it such a great experience.
It's been great to hear about her travels, including things like riding an overnight bus and trying to fit on the beds; actually seeing the SKY and being amazed by it; being thrilled with a banana pancake for breakfast after months of instant oatmeal; being able to shop for lots of stuff for very little american $; trying to stomach the "western food" that they try to fix, having to study really hard, but then getting a week off just to travel, and many other tales! From the pictures, it looks like Josie is doing just fine! Thanks for the update, Josie!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Team celebrates season with Banquet at Fire & Ice

In early december we celebrated our season over a nice dinner in a private back room at Fire & Ice Restaurant, and enjoyed each other's company again after not being together for several weeks. Rachel Eldrege and Stephen Oster both were able to join us to make our Team complete. It was a nice study break for some, and a nice mini reunion for all of us! The Coaches handed out the voted-on awards, the official Middlebury Letters, and Participation Certificates, in addition to a few other special certificates this year to individuals for some of their specific contributions to the team. There also were some very nice thank-you's from the team to the adults in the form of framed pictures, and nice gift certificates, and also a couple of Nalgene bottles (so we stop wasting plastic water bottles all the time!) All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, and a nice culmination to our season.