Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jane is Honorable Mention All-American

For the second consecutive year, Jane has tallied some very nice post-season awards. We've already announced that she was selected 1st Team All-NESCAC, but now she's added a few more to the list! She was recently named 2nd Team All-New England by the NEWVA (New England Women's Volleyball Association), and also to the All-Region team for the New England Region by the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association). Most recently, Jane was once again named as an Honorable Mention All-American!! These are all very nice honors, so WAY TO GO JANE!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jane, Lauren and Julia Honored by NESCAC

Jane was selected to the 1st Team All-NESCAC, while Lauren was selected to the 2nd Team All-NESCAC, and Julia was selected as the NESCAC Rookie of the year. Great job you three!! This is the second year in a row that the Rookie of the Year went to MIDD! Yeah! The NESCAC boasted seven teams in the top 15 in New England, so to have three members represented in these awards by the Conference is really great. They're in very good company with the rest of the names on those lists. Congratulations to Jane, Lauren and Julia for their very nice respective honors from the Conference. Way to go, guys!!

As we like to mention at times like this, we are a true TEAM, and individual honors would be hard to come by if we didn't play together like a true team. It's important and fun to recognize individual efforts, but we all realize that in order to achieve greatness, it takes everyone on the team challenging each other in practice every day, and supporting each other both on the bench, and on the court. Each member of the team should take pride in the achievements of these three, for everyone played a part, and that's what makes this team so special. WAY TO GO MIDD!! :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Seniors Recognized Post Season

We have two very nice honors to announce about two of our seniors. Molly was selected by our team to represent Middlebury on the NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team. I think this is a very nice honor because I feel like our whole team does a great job with sportsmanship. This isn't something that we have to try hard to do, but it's more of a way of life. We talk about how we present ourselves before, during and after matches, but also just in our everyday lives around campus or town. To be recognized as the best on our team for that is a true honor! Congratulations Molly!!

Natalie was selected to take part in the Senior Classic, which recognizes the top 25 seniors in New England! This is a very nice honor as there are over 70 colleges in New England. To be recognized as one of the top seniors out of all of those players is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations Natalie!! There will be a skills competition and game among the selected seniors this coming weekend down at UMass Boston that Natalie will take part in.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

MIDD Loses Heartbreaker in NESCAC Quarterfinals

We had a somewhat interesting week of practice leading up to the NESCAC Tournament since we only had all 14 players one day, and that was Monday for our pool practice and film session. Despite that, however, we all got on the bus healthy and ready to go! We were focused on what we wanted to do, and that was stay at Tufts and play as long as possible. We liked our first round match-up against Amherst. We had split with them during the year, but felt confident going in that we could win.

We got off to a bit of a slow start in game one, but came on late to make that first game at least competitive. We then took control in the next two games and really looked pretty sharp. Our serve receive was better, and our defense was solid, allowing all hitters to get involved in game two where we had 18 kills and only 3 errors as a team. Game three ended up being dominated by our three top hitters in Jane, Caroline and Julia combining for 11 kills and 3 errors on 23 attempts.

Game four saw us get our middles both involved again, but unfortunately, we started to get blocked some on both sides, and we combined for a total of 11 hitting errors. I think we led by a couple of points for quite a bit, but then we traded points until Amherst tied it at 21.
Unfortunately, they scored the last four points to win that 4th game and force a deciding 5th game.

After having a possible record-high missed serves for a match, we actually didn't have many, if any in the 5th. It would prove to be a game of short streaks, that didn't end with ours, unfortunately. We got up early by a few points, maybe 4-1, and then they came back to within a point. We then held the lead at 8-5 when we switched sides, and then they came back to go up 10-9. We then got our lead to 13-11 before the house came crumbling down. We just couldn't seem to come up with a good clean pass to run our full offense, and they camped on our outsides a bit. We kept the ball in play, but couldn't seem to get that good, clean, powerful hit that we'd been so successful with earlier. Our season ended when, after a long rally that neither side was able to put away, their bigger outside hitter hit off our block and out of play for match point.

All in all, we did have some fabulous efforts, despite the heartbreaking nature of the loss. Jane had to sit out of practice on Thursday, and bounced right back to have an amazing match. She had a match high 23 kills, 15 digs, 2 solo blocks (VERY nice!), 2 assist blocks, and two service aces. Other highlights in the stats column were Caroline's digs at 27, Natalie's 18 digs, Lauren's 56 assists, and 12 digs, and Elissa's three blocks and a service ace.

One of the highlights that won't show up anywhere unless you were there to watch was the play of senior Mallory White. Mallory didn't play a lot this year, but every chance she got, she came in and passed everything right to the target, and was poised and solid. Friday night was no exception. Mallory was composed, and came in and gave us a lift in the 2nd game that turned things around for us. We then used her to serve and play through the back row for the rest of the match, and it gave us a different look for serve receive that really gave us a boost, not to mention some of her great defensive plays. Amherst had been serving Natalie a lot, and giving her a rest in the back row forced them to find someone else to serve to; although, Natalie's defense was stellar all night!

On the serving note, we couldn't seem to find a good rhythm serving tonight. We've been a pretty good serving team all season, but for some reason we didn't seem to have the groove Friday night. We did manage 9 service aces, but we also had a lot of errors, and couldn't seem to hit our spots that often. I looked at Brian, who calls the serves, and I finally had to ask, "who are you asking them to serve to?!" He calmly replied, "Not where they're serving." To Amherst's credit, I think they outplayed us down the stretch, and that's more a credit to them than a knock on us.

I can't quite describe the horrible pit left in my stomach after a match like that, and I've only experienced a loss like that maybe one other time in my coaching career. Afterward, when the team was stretching and talking with parents and what not, I heard Jane's aunt telling some of the girls to keep their heads held high, and to remember that this one match doesn't define us as a team. She said we had a great season, and we should all be proud of that! That is the truth, as hard as it was to focus on that in that moment, that is the truth. We did have a great season, and we had a lot of fun, and quite a lot of us will be back again next year. Each team takes on a slightly different personality, and we'll certainly miss our four seniors, and that's part of what makes it so hard at the time. It seemed that this was the time, this was the team. Now, we'll have to bring that passion and determination into next year's season!

After the match, my cell phone rang, and it was Reisa calling from CA. I didn't really want to pick it up and tell her her career was over. She'd already had her own heartbreaking decision when she went to interview for a job with the GAP Company on Thursday and Friday in San Fransisco. She's our only Feb, and that means that in a couple of months, she'll be out in the "real world" looking for a job. She'd been through several interviews, and this was the final, personal inteview, and she needed to be there, and we all knew that, even if she wasn't sure about it. If she gets the job, I think we'll all take some pride in that! :) She took the red-eye that night, and joined us at the hotel for breakfast and the bus-ride home.

And, Whit, after missing both Wed. and Thursday with the flu and fever, came back and played her heart out, as did the rest of the team. Julia and Caitlin did everything we'd asked them to do, and everyone on the bench helped us stay motivated and stick to our game plan, and keep the huddles calm, positive and controlled, which was great.

Now, it's only Sunday, so the reality of not having practice any more hasn't quite set in yet, but I imagine in the next couple of days, it'll start to feel real, and I'll have to move on, as always. I watched the NESCAC Championship as Williams defeated Tufts in three straight after a thrilling, and somewhat stressful (even watching on the computer), back and forth 3rd game. I will miss seeing everyone in practice, but we'll plan some community service projects, and some fun get-togethers, and that will be something else to look forward to. I also look forward to seeing team members take part in some of their other activities, like Elissa playing basketball, or Natalie trying out for Riddim, or Mallory singing with the Mischords. Who knows, I may even try to run part of the TAM with Molly, and a few others. I'll try to keep posting our events and get-togethers here on the Blog, but not quite as often as during the season. Thank you to all of our super-supportive parents and other fans. THANK YOU!! The positive support really means a lot to all of us.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

MIDD Wins Last Two--Seeded 4th for NESCAC's

It was balmy and windy on Halloween when we finished out our season with two wins. That ended our regular season at 20-5, which is our best finish in many years! Brian says he's never had a record like that, and this is his 6th year, so there you go. After possibly our worst practice all year on Friday night, we ate and loaded the bus to head for Hamilton. There was some pretty heavy NESCAC action that night that we were catching wind of on our way. Underdogs were winning, and seedings were starting to shake up. It was very fun to hear the scores, and start to think about the possible scenarios, but we also knew we needed to stay focused on our task ahead--winning our last two matches against both Colby and Bates.

Colby was our first match, and they didn't give us much trouble. Sarah and Mallory played for two games in place of Caroline, and it was as if nothing had changed in our offense or defense, which is a fantastic occurrence at this point in the season. Both players stepped in and did a great job, and we cruised past Colby in three straight. Julia also had a wonderful match with 12 kills, no errors, on 20 swings. She was untouchable!

Sarah's parents brought us lunch, which was great. No early morning trip to the grocery store, which is always a nice treat for me. The food was great, and always something different when new people bring the lunch. It was much enjoyed by all of us, and they had Halloween plates etc, which was a fun touch! THANK YOU! We had great parental support, too. We had Sarah's parents and grandparents; Elissa's parents continued their NE tour, along with Lauren's (and Caitlin's--sorry, younger sis) parents. We played on the side court at Hamilton, in their field house, and it's big, and somewhat dark, and kind of quiet, so it was really nice to have fans cheering positive things for us! Our parents are great role models, and very positive supporters of the team, and we really appreciate the positive enthusiasm!

So, after our lunch, we played Bates. We had a quick scare before the game as Lauren got nailed hard in the face with a ball late during warm-ups, and her face was red and puffy, and her eye stung when it was open, so that wasn't good. In typical Lauren style, however, she shrugged it off and was "fine." She sure seemed fine as we took control of the match early, although the game ended up pretty close. We then lost the second game, and the third was extremely close, but we've been in so many close games that I felt confident. However, even though we were up maybe 22-20, they went up 23-22. Then we traded points until we finally won the third 26-24. That was a key game, however, and we downed them easily in the 4th. We pretty much dominated the game from start to finish, but Lauren finished it in style with four straight service aces to close out the match and our regular season!

Then, to top it off, the Barretts provided us a buffet dinner to take on the bus! Seriously, a total buffet complete with courses, and even a container of fluff?! What a feast. We were certainly well fed that day, not to mention the various Halloween treats by the parents as well. All this in the driving rain (thank goodness we were on a big bus and not driving vans). By the time we reached home at 8pm, however, it was barely sprinkling, and the costumes were starting to come out. Reisa finished her "monkey suit" on the bus--actually sewed it by hand--very impressive. Jane came to collect a few "workman" items that I'd brought from home, and there was a general excitement about the team for the festive holiday! Brian and I were fairly excited to catch a glimpse of our kids in their outfits as well, so we all headed off in our own directions once home.

Now, we'll have the week to prepare for Amherst, who will be our first foe to face! This is the bonus season that not everyone gets, and we're very excited, and motivated to keep playing as long as possible. This team is a special team, and we all just want to keep playing and having fun together as long as possible. We'll keep working all week, and see how long we can play next weekend. Each match we win earns us the right to play one more! Fun times!