Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keeping Healthy, and Having Fun!

After many of our longer weekends, especially where we play 3 matches, we've started having Monday practices in the pool. Our trainer, Rachel, has suggested that this is actually better for the players bodies. If we have the day off, they will likely do extra work, and could be sitting for long periods of time, and actually get even more stiff. So, at this point in the season, we're looking to stay healthy, and keep our minds and bodies as fresh as possible, so we've been having "pool workouts," if you can call them that?! We do relay races, and have fun competitions. It's great. There are some real swimmers on the team, and we're even coming up with our own hypothesis about height and ability in the pool?! I won't say our "conclusions!" It's all in good fun, which is the main thing.

Sometimes we do "whirlpool" effect, or at least try for the effect. It's always fun to watch this develop! Elissa and Jane even tried pool volleyball, but with a water polo ball (?), which is much harder than a volleyball!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lauren is Tournament MVP--MIDD Wins Silver Bracket at Hall of Fame

We were the #1 seed for the Silver Bracket at the Hall of Fame Tournament this past weekend. For the headline, we won the tournament, and Lauren was named the MVP, and Jane was named to the All-Tournament Team! Yeah!!

We started off the weekend with a 5pm match against Mt. Holyoke, the tournament host. It turned out to be a pretty quick match that saw everyone play. Sarah had a debut in the middle so Whit could get some extra rest, and Julia and Caitlin set a 6-2 for the first time in a match this year. I believe that this was just the second time in Lauren's career that she actually came out of the game--maybe the 3rd time?! Afterward, we were actually able to go out to a sit-down dinner. What a luxury! Thanks to some parents who've been providing dinner, lunch and snacks for us, we actually got to spend enough money to eat a real dinner. We all enjoyed ourselves, which was really great, so thank you, parents.

The next day, we started off at noon against Westfield State, whom we'd already beaten back at the Amherst Classic more than a month ago. This match proved much the same as the one before, as we overpowered them in three straight sets. The finals of the tournament saw us play a Conference rival, Bowdoin, again. When we played them at home the weekend before, they won the first set, and then we won the next three straight. This time, we came out strong and sharp, and took the first two games convincingly. However, it ended up going to 5 games after our concentration, and our passing took a brief hiatus. We regained our composure, and our game, and took the 5th 15-10. One more 5 game victory under our belts!

A rainy, stormy, dark and nasty night to travel, thank goodness we were on a nice bus with overpowering heat! A movie and a half later, we pulled into Pepin, which was still rocking with the very end of The Roots in Concert. The gym was literally shaking from the music. Sunday was a nice, gorgeous Fall day off, and now we're back to work to prepare for our last three Conference Matches!! First up: Williams!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MIDD Wins Tight 4 Game Match with Plymouth State

It was a great match-up between two ranked opponents in New England. Plymouth State has been ranked all season, and came into the match with a nine-match home winning streak, only to be broken on Senior Night. We showed some very good poise in the match, coming from behind the first couple of games to win each by two points. After losing the 3rd game, also by a very narrow margin, we edged them out by four points in the 4th game to take a somewhat decisive victory. They had a very quick, and powerful middle hitter, but due to our balanced offense, and tough serving, we kept them out of system more than they were in it. Lauren led our varied offense to victory behind some very solid passing by our defense, led by our two senior captains, Reisa and Natalie. It was a good team win, and it's always good to see the composure at this point in the season in these tight matches. Especially for a relatively young squad, that calmness under pressure could prove to be a real key down the stretch!

We heard after the match that it was webcast, as a few of the parents were watching it from afar! Fun to hear the stories about Reisa, the DS (Designated Server), and Jane Han-dell, and Caroline Cor-dell, both unloading from the outside. Funny night, really. One of the refs was from Iowa, and was very curious about Whit, since he rarely sees anyone from Iowa out here. Late night, however, as we didn't pull up to home until just after Midnight!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Well, I am supposed to give out the flowers on Senior Night, not get them! THANK YOU!! It's so great to have four seniors again this year. It's a very special thing to have four players all four years; however, this class is a little different than most. Of the four, each has had a different path to MIDD and to Midd Volleyball. Reisa, our "super-senior" was accepted to MIDD as a FEB. What that means is that she was really a part of the recruiting class before her, but didn't come until February that next year, and thus missed that first season of volleyball. As a Feb, she met the team her first spring and was able to start to get to know them that spring, but didn't actually try out for the team until the next fall, when she met Molly. Molly was a "regular" freshman, and has been on the team with Reisa for four straight years. Both have been ALL-NESCAC Academic selections, and Reisa has also been named to the NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Natalie was also a "regular" freshmen four years ago, but we didn't know her then because she didn't think she wanted to play college volleyball. After a hectic club and HS tenure, she figured it was time to hang it up, but, in the end, missed it too much to say goodbye. She played pick-up with the team in the spring of her freshman year, and then decided to talk to me about maybe trying out for the team. Three years later, she's been a consistent starter for us, and currently is in the top 3 in two different categories of MIDD VB records (2nd in service aces per game, and 3rd in digs per game). Not bad for someone who didn't even plan on continuing her volleyball career in college?! And last, but certainly not least, is Mallory. Mallory transferred to MIDD after a year at Emory. She hadn't played there, but was very interested in continuing her volleyball career, and even though I was very excited to have her come to MIDD to play for us, I didn't think she'd get actually get here because we hardly ever take transfers, and hadn't taken more than one or two in the previous few years. Well, needless to say, I was proven wrong, and we did take several transfers that year, and, lucky for us, one of them was Mal!! That's how we have the wonderful, and diverse group of seniors that we now have. Thank you to all of you. You add so much to this team, and your leadership and dedication has been instrumental in the development of the Program.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

MIDD Sweeps 3 on Homecoming!

What a FUN weekend here at MIDD. Not only was it Homecoming Weekend, but it was also our Senior Night! We had appearances from alums like Karen Engler Bartlett ('95), Lexie Fisher ('07.5), Kate Heath, Olivia Minkhorst, and Josie Keller (all '09). Not quite enough for an alumnae game, but it was great to see them, and it helped boost the atmosphere in the gym knowing they were back in the house! We also had an appearance from our former "1 Fan" Susie Patterson! :)

After we recognized our four seniors on Friday night, our battle with Tufts began. The fans were packed in, the gym was loud, and we even had face-painting going on!! It was a terrific atmosphere! The first game went to 26-28, and even though that one didn't come out in our favor, it was a sign of what type of match it was going to be. Every game was decided by either two or three points, and two went past 25 to be decided. We were playing tough, and overall, we passed better, so we got to run our offense more, and that seemed to be the edge. We also blocked about as well as we have all season, which was great to see, and gave us that extra boost that we needed. Good timing there! Tufts was undefeated in Conference coming into the weekend, so we all felt like that was a great win for us!

Saturday brought on more challenges as we faced Bowdoin. They played Williams in the early match, so we got to watch part of that before we played them. They took a commanding lead in the first game of that match before losing in 4 to the Ephs. When we were due to play Bowdoin in the next match, Williams was to play Tufts on the other court. (They were the #1, and #2 teams coming into the weekend.) We happened to be playing Williams in Football that day, and suddenly, we hear a loud band playing in the gym only to look over and see part of the Williams pep band playing for their team right in the gym! It was hilarious, and we all enjoyed a little "football game day band action!" The band left, and the games began!

Bowdoin edged us out in the first game by two points, but we seemed to bounce right back and take charge in the 2nd game. They came right back in typical NESCAC fashion in the 3rd, but we were able to edge them out by two points this time, and then we finished strong to post a commanding win in the fourth game at 25-18.

Our final match of the day was against a struggling Hamilton team, and I think they were already done for the day. We were doing a great job staying focused, and we'd seen Hamilton hang tough with Wesleyan last weekend, and we saw them almost take a game from Bowdoin on Friday night, so I think we did a great job coming out strong and being focused on our task at hand--playing our game, and staying sharp. All the seniors got to play in that match, and it was fun to see them on our Home court for the last time in uniform, especially with some alums in the house and a lot of parents there. We had a great crowd again on Saturday, which was really fun for us all.

Needless to say, everyone had a very good weekend. I think Lauren did a wonderful job running our offense and leading the team. Jane and Caroline had excellent hitting percentages, especially considering the caliber of teams we were playing. Elissa had a very good blocking weekend to go with some powerful hitting. I think maybe Whit may have had her best weekend of the year, however. She was hitting and blocking and just was on top of her game! How fun! Nat and Reisa both captained the defense very well, along with Caitlin Barrett, and Mallory passed bullets off the bench in the last match which was really fun to see! She was right on the money with every pass it seemed! Julia has been consistently providing that extra double-digit kill leader for us, and frustrating opponents serve receive with her weapon of a serve, and this was no exception. I think she put a little extra muster on the ball this weekend as well, and she stepped up her blocking which was great. Molly came in against Hamilton, and what she added on the court is similar to what she gives us all season long--consist effort, and smart play. She may not show up in the stats that much, but Molly was setting her block exactly where we wanted it, and doing all the little things that help us to be successful, even if they don't show up in the stats. Great job, Molly. Sarah Studwell was the other one to play, and I think she hit .800 for the match. They couldn't touch her. Sarah is a very explosive hitter, and it's really fun to see her come off the bench and waste no time putting the hurt on the ball! All in all, it was a great Team Weekend, and a lot of fun for us all. Now we have to get back to work and keep the ball rolling!

Next week is a non-Conference week for us with a Regionally ranked Plymouth State team mid-week, and then the Hall of Fame Tournament next weekend before we play our last three Conference matches of the season the last week of the regular season.

I'd also like to thank all the parents for EVERYTHING! The wonderful dinner in Lawson Lounge after the Tufts win. Even though I missed most of it, it sounded like it was fantastic, and that is really special for the team to share that with you all. AND, thank you for all the flowers for Brian and I, and for everything you do for us. We appreciate all that you do, and the support you give your daughters, and the team. THANK YOU!!! I will post some pictures when I get some.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MIDD Splits 2nd Conference Weekend

Conference Weekends are tough, no matter how you slice it, but we felt good going into our second weekend. We were to play the home team, Conn. on Friday night in the early match, and then have until Saturday afternoon at 1:30 before we played Wesleyan, so it was at least a good schedule. After our 5 hour bus ride down to Conn, we got off the bus and walked around briefly to get some fresh air. The warm, humid air was a nice greeting as the air had already started to cool off at home with threats of frost approaching.

Apparently, after we warmed up, we seemed to have left our game still on the bus, or somewhere other than the gym. Conn dominated the play from the very start. We knew they would be a tough serving team, but our serve receive didn't hold up that well, and our offense got off to a rocky start as we got blocked often early. We managed to fight back into the game to make it appear respectable, but we were behind from the very start, and always trying to get back into it. We were getting blocked, losing our hitters, and making errors. It was incredibly frustrating for all of us, our fans included (thanks parents!). The second game was worse than the first, and the third actually started out like maybe we'd found a groove, but it didn't last, and even though we hung in there for most of the third, they were up 20-18 and then scored two points on one of their servers after we'd both been siding out on the first serve for several rotations. That put them up 22-18, and we finished with a 25-21, 25-15, 25-20 loss in three--our first straight-set loss of the season!

At least the sun came up the next day! After sleeping in, and having a leisurely breakfast at our nice hotel, we showed up at the gym early to watch some of the early matches. We played Wesleyan at 1:30, and it was a typical Conference show-down between two evenly matched teams. We battled Wes to a 1-2 game deficit, only losing our two games by 2 pts. each, before taking the 4th game more decisively and headed into our 4th 5 game match of the season (but not having won one yet!?) This was a great test for our young team. Our leadership prevailed, and we put away our first 5th game win of the season, and now there's no looking back! Behind our main offensive weapons, Jane, Caroline and Julia, who combined for 23, 19, and 11 kills respectively, we finally felt like our offense started to rev up. I believe, however, that is was our blocking that may have turned the tide for us. We've not been that great of a blocking team all season, unfortunately, but in that match, we came up with 3 solo's, and 8 block assists. Elissa had a very good blocking game, but it was Whit who solo stuffed their middle late in the 5th game to really give us a well-timed boost. That may have put the score at 13-9 before we finally won it 15-12. Volleyball is such a game of momentum, and at that point in the 5th, which had been tight the whole way, it gave us a momentum spike that helped push us over the hump, not to mention that Caroline had 4 kills alone in the short 5th game.

Reisa had a great serving night, serving more times than anyone else. Even without any aces, she was keeping her serve in and in good places, and we were scoring. Julia and Lauren came up with some tough serving stretches too, adding 3, and 2 aces to go with their number of serves. Lauren hung tough with some minor ailments not detering her at all from one of her best defensive matches with 14 digs to go along with her 52 assists.

It was a very interesting weekend down at Conn as everyone split except for Hamilton. Conn, Wes, Williams and Midd all split with each other with one loss and one win. It seems to be shaping up to be a typical NESCAC year with everyone beating everyone else which could make the final standings very interesting. Next weekend will be big for us as we play 3 more NESCAC teams, leaving only three to play before the tournament. We have the week to prepare, and no classes on Monday and Tuesday, so hopefully we'll be rested and ready for some Homecoming Fun next weekend!

Monday, October 5, 2009

MIDD Splits First Conference Weekend

It was parent's weekend at home, but at least we weren't too far away. We had several parents there for our first weekend of Conference Matches, and we game them some good action to watch. We managed to beat a scrappy Trinity team in three straight sets, but it took a great comeback in the 3rd game to take them in straight sets. I think we were down 24-20, or something like that, and staged a very solid comeback that would see us win the 3rd set 26-24. We had some very solid serving all match, and our offense was pretty solid as well. They really didn't have an answer for Jane (17 kills), unless they happened to block her. Once she got past the block, it didn't come up all that often. Julia (.364) and Whit (.538) had very good matches too, as you can see by their hitting %'s.

The second match of the day was our re-match with Amherst, but this time it counted toward the Conference standings. We came out and took control of the match right away by winning the first two sets. Their libero hadn't seen us because she missed the last match, and when our passing was on, and we had our full offense running, we were finding good success. They ended up subbing out their starting setter, found a new groove with their freshman setter, and their Libero started to read our hitters more, and the match tightened up to a very even match that would go 5. It was a match of momentum swings as we dominated early, and they dominated late, but we both poised some come-back stretches along the way. We were down 11-6 in the 5th, and came back to within 11-12 before bowing out at 12-15 in the 5th.

Jane and Julia paced our offense with 15, and 11 kills, but Elissa and Jane had the stats in hitting % with .353, and .268 respectively. Also, Lauren had 5 kills on 13 attempts for a .385 hitting %. Lauren's set distribution was excellent, too, as she dished out 41 sets to both OH's, and 32 to Julia, and 28, and 17 to the middles. It was a very good match, that, despite the momentum swings, could have gone either way. A missed serve here, and a pass too tight there, and the timing of those big mo' swings both ways helped determine the final outcome. We'll be looking forward to a re-match at some point later in the season, but we have a lot of work to do before we start planning for that! We have another Conference Weekend this coming weekend at Conn (Conn, and Wesleyan), and then the following weekend we're HOME for Homecoming where we'll play Tufts, Bowdoin and Hamilton. Lots of fun to be had, so stay tuned! :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Midd Stays Unbeaten at Home

Our play was a little up and down, and all over the place on Thursday night as Norwich stole a game. The first set was lopsided in favor of Midd as they really had no answer for our offensive weapons. They struggled to return the serves from Julia, Lauren, Jane and Caroline, and often sent the ball back over on one. After easing to a quick victory in the first game, we altered our lineup and went back out for game two.

Norwich was not going to go away easily, and to their credit, they fought back hard, and started digging everything, and just keeping the ball in play. They tipped on us and caught us back on our heels, and also started serving us tougher, forcing us out of what we wanted to do. Combine their upped tempo with our mistakes and it didn't add up to a favorable game for MIDD.

More restructuring in the third game, and still quite a bit of fight in Norwich saw us pull out a closer than expected game before taking charge again in the 4th. Our middles didn't get too involved as Norwich used more off-speed shots, and were difficult to block, yet both Whit and Elissa had pretty good hitting percentage nights again. Our defense was also forced into a different look, as Lauren and Caitlin had way more digs in the right back area then most matches.

On the night, there were a couple of shining spots. We came out ready to play, and really took charge in game one. Then, we had a couple of seniors step up and really show some poise off the bench. Mallory and Molly came off the bench and really helped set the tone for what we want from our bench in games 3 and 4. That is what is at the heart of Middlebury Volleyball. We have plenty of things to keep improving on, and our goal is to keep getting better every day in practice to become the best team that we can become. It takes each and every one of us, and those two seniors showed a lot of poise and composure last night. Those home matches in Pepin are fleeing for our seniors, as the next (and last) time they'll play at home will be Homecoming!

Now, we're off to our first NESCAC weekend at Williams where we hope to get our Conference play off to a good start!