Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MIDD Beats Colby-Sawyer in 3

It sure wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty, but we managed to hold off the Chargers from Colby-Sawyer in three games. The first game saw us get behind 20-12, AND manage to get it to 22-16 before a sideout that brought Caroline to the service line. We went on to score the next 8 points in a row to win that important first game. They were really dictating the tempo, and were in charge for most of that first game as we struggled to get anything going. Our serve receive was inconsistent, and so was our defense, so our offense was slow in getting going. We also got blocked a few times and just couldn't manage any strings, until we had our backs against the wall, so to speak. I can't even tell you what it was that changed the momentum for us, but I think we finally stuck a couple of passes right to Lauren, and got a couple of big kills from that. That spurred some more defensive plays, which led to more offense, which led to a momentum swing that would see us pull out that first game in grand style. To go on a run like that at that point in the game is huge because a couple of mistakes from us and the game would have been over.

After that we still didn't really feel like we were firing on all cylinders, but we did manage to hold off a regionally ranked opponent (14th) and not let them take a game from us! There are certainly some shining spots for us, but we are keeping the bar set high for this group, and although we are very happy with the win, we are focusing on the things we need to improve to be the team we'd like to be. The comeback was a big test for us because we had to defend a couple of legitimate hitters, and focus to not make any mistakes on our end. That was great to see, even though we'd like to not put ourselves in that spot. We also were forced to hold off a late run by Colby-Sawyer in the 3rd game when we were up 19-8 only to see it get to 23-20, still in our favor, but they ran off a string of points to close that gap. Happy to have the win, and even happier that it was in 3 games. Thursday will be our last mid-week match at home until Homecoming where we'll host a Conference Weekend with Tufts, Williams, Bowdoin, and Hamilton!

We open our Conference play down at Williams this Saturday where we'll play Trinity at 11am, and Amherst at 1:30 pm. Big week for us, so we'll hope we can get healthy, and stay that way!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

MIDD Wins 2 of 3 at Amherst Classic

What a fun weekend for MIDD VB! We have been off to a great start this year, but we hadn't been through the really hard test of a Conference foe yet. This weekend we faced Westfield State, Amherst and Brandeis at the Amherst Classic, and got our test! Westfield was a tough match as they dug just about everything we hit their way, but we came out on top of a three game win, finding each set score get closer and closer. Three of our hitters, (Jane, Elissa, and Whit) all had great hitting % nights with only two hitting errors between the three of them to go with 21 total kills. Lauren had her typical night distributing the ball around, and making very good decisions. Mallory and Sarah came of the bench to add a new look for us. Mallory added some solid passing, and we got Sarah some additional front row time.

After that first match, we ended up at a familiar destination for dinner--Whole Foods hot bar! That's a fun eating experience for us that we discovered was close to our hotel last year. The amazing selection of tasty foods is fun for all of us. Everyone was adding things to their plate, and then weighing it to see how much more they could afford to add without going over our budget. Joining us were Jane's father, and Elissa's parents, so that was fun as well. We had more fans arriving the next morning for Saturday's matches including the Barretts, and Caroline's mom and sisters, and Jane's Aunt/Uncle etc, in addition to a few friends that go to Amherst. We had a great fan base for being away from home--thank you parents and fans!!

Saturday morning saw us come rested and ready to go. We beat Amherst in 4 games, and that was thrilling for us. It's been a few (?) years since we've beaten Amherst, so the team was pretty excited about that win, even though it doesn't count toward our Conference Standings! We had another good hitting game for most of our hitters, which was great to see. Both Caroline and Jane led us in Kills, but Julia, Elissa and Whit were all involved in the offense to give us some great balance. Whit, Elissa and Lauren all had good blocking games as well, which was nice to see. Their top hitter from the outside was hitting deep over our block, however, and really challenged our defense, but for the most part, we rose to the occasion! We tallied up a lot of digs, and passed the ball pretty well out of serve receive so we could run our offense. Oddly enough, the off-speed ball sent us sprawling on the floor more than anything. Always more things to work on!

That afternoon, we had to rebound from our emotional win and come back and play a very tough Brandeis team. Thanks to Lauren's parents, the team had a nice selection of snacks between matches, and got as rested and refueled as possible in the 50 + minutes between the end of the Amherst match, and the beginning of the Brandeis match. They blocked us very well, and so our offense struggled a little to get going. In this match-up, Julia was our main offense, and their block didn't get to her as she went around it in every direction. Caroline came up big with a ton of digs, and Reisa and Natalie both played great in the back row splitting the Libero spot all day long. Overall, our serve receive didn't hold up as well against Brandeis as it did against Amherst, and we saw our receiving errors almost double. Our only hitter who hit 100% was Caitlin...from the back row! She was two for two, which shows you she's on the ball and saw a couple of opportunities, and capitalized on them! Nice going! Also, Elissa had a 6k/1e/18att match, which was great to go with Julia's 13k/4e/35att stats. Our outsides racked up some good kills, but Jane struggled with the block a bit, and Caroline was aiming for the back line with some aggressive topspin shots that overshot just a tad.

All in all, it was a great weekend. We would like to have a few points back in that last match against Brandeis, but they were a tough match, and a fun one to play. We have another full week coming, with games on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but at least Tues, and Thurs. are home. Oh, and by the way, great car, Joe! You look good behind the wheel of that car!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MIDD Tops Union and Wins 5th Straight

It sure didn't start out like it would be a three game match, at least not one that favored us. Union came out very strong, and blocked pretty much every shot we sent over the net at the beginning of the match! We got down early, and seemed almost in shock at being blocked so completely. We hadn't faced blockers like that yet this season, and I think we weren't sure what to do at first. Calmness, and rational thinking fortunately came back to us, and we realized that if we could just get our defense under control enough to have our full offense, then we could at least start to challenge their blockers. That we did, and suddenly we started to get a few points, and then more, and finally we were tied at about 14. We only had 6 kills in the first game, but due to some tough serving, we forced them out of what they wanted to do offensively, and got a lot of free balls as a result. This helped our cause quite a bit.

Our passing was pretty good on the night, but in addition to that, the main thing that helped our offense was getting Julia involved. She was the only hitter on the night to have considerable success with 9 kills and only 3 errors on 18 swings. Both Caroline and Jane had near .000 hitting % or less, and Whit and Elissa were both at .000% with even kills and errors. In addition to Julia being able to get consistently past the block, she served them off the court. On the night she had 5 aces, but there were countless others that came back to us as free balls as a result of her serve.

Despite the great team win (we had lost to Union the past two seasons in 5 games), the highlight of the evening may not have been the win itself?! Lauren and Caitlin's mom showed up with grandparents (fans), and dinner for the entire team! THE sandwiches that we all love, and freshmen had already heard stories about! They made the trek to Union to see us play, AND brought us dinner! Now, that was something! We sat outside under the cloudy, night sky eating our picnic sandwiches on the lawn by the parking lot. As a couple of players commented, it was "almost romantic!" I don't know if I'd go that far, but it sure was a lot better than grabbing fast food on the way home! Thanks Barretts!! We're looking forward to the Amherst Classic this weekend, and hope that we can all stay healthy, both from injuries, and from the various bugs going around campus.

Friday, September 18, 2009

MIDD Wins Home Opener Easily

The team was very excited for our first home match this year. After spending last year in the Bubble, it sure was nice to be back at home in Pepin! We were expecting more of a match from St. Michael's, but the combination of us playing well, and them not playing all that well, added up to a very lopsided match. Not to mention that they tried 3 different setters during the match.

Jane and Caroline got us started off very well offensively, and St. Mikes clearly couldn't handle either of them, who had 10, and 7 kills respectively, while only having 1 hitting error each. We did need to dial in our passing a bit so we could establish the middle, but we did that and Elissa had a big night with 8 kills, and NO hitting errors. Maddie was holding down the other middle position with Whit out with a sore back. We need to get some timing issues worked out and then Maddie will become a force to reckon with!

We served very well for the night. Elissa finished out game one with two consecutive points, and then Natalie served out the final 5 points of game two. In the third game, Caitlin came in to serve when it was 11-5, and never left the service line. 14 points later the game and match were over. I'm not sure we even rotated around one full time in that last game.

Natalie anchored the defense for the first two games, and came up big several times. Just when it looked like they might get a kill, Natalie was there with the dig! Lauren had her choice of sets quite a bit, and ended up spreading around the offense very well with four hitters having double digit attempts (Jane, Elissa, Caroline, and Julia). Sarah had a short, but successful last game, and Reisa anchored the defense in the last game.

It was really fun to play well in our first home match, and even though the crowd came fashionably late, they were loud and rowdy, which was really great! We're off the rest of the weekend, and then we have a big week next week with Union on Tuesday, and then the Amherst Classic next weekend where we'll face Westfield St., Amherst, and Brandeis.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Opening Weekend a Success. Jane named All-Tournament

After a shortened preseason, we may not have been quite as prepared as we sometimes are, but we at least got to take most of our freshmen with us! Usually, this first tournament at Potsdam has fallen on the weekend before classes started, and we've had to leave our first-years behind to register for classes. This time, fortunately, most of them came with us for what turned out to be a pretty successful opening weekend, despite some early season injuries and set-backs.

In pool-play on Friday night, the first team we met turned out to be our toughest competition all weekend. We were very well-matched with Clarkson, I think, but they were a little more game-ready. We looked like we were still figuring out who was playing what position the first game as they rolled over us easily 8-25. That wasn't pretty, but we bounced right back in game two with a convincing 25-16 win behind some almost flawless hitting (we only had one hitting error in game two!)

From there on out it was nip and tuck. Our starting line-up included three freshmen (Caitlin and Maddie sharing the RH spot, and Sarah playing OH front row) Sophomore (Caroline), who'd only recently returned to practice from a foot injury over the summer and was restricted to back-row play only played back row for Sarah. In addition to that, Reisa was kept out with a tight leg muscle that we didn't want to worsen, and Julia had to stay behind for both a lab that she couldn't miss, and a bad stomach bug. Elissa, Jane, Lauren, Nat and Whit all pretty much picked up where they left off last year, which was great to see.

After losing game three 25-27, we squeaked out the 4th to force a deciding 5th game. We had some incredible performances offensively with Jane and Sarah both lighting it up with 17 and 14 kills respectively. Elissa also had a great first match with 6 kills and only one error on 18 swings, and solid blocking. Whit had an uncharacteristic 4 errors with 8 kills on 20 swings, but also had a solid blocking night. Overall, we didn't block their OH's as well as we would have liked. Our defense took a little more time adjusting to read the hitters than we'll want to see later, and our serving errors were plenty. With Julia at home, that left Maddie playing in an unfamiliar position at RH. All things considered, we felt pretty good about our first match.

The second match that night was a totally different story, all the way around. Morrisville didn't pose much of a threat. Everyone got to play, and hopefully worked out those first-game jitters. Once again, Jane led our offense with another 17 kills, hitting .520. She also tied for the most service aces with 3, and led the team in digs as well. Jane would go on to be named to the All-Tournament Team after Saturday's play.

Losing to Clarkson put us in the Silver Bracket playing the other two teams that got second in their respective pools. SUNY-Oswego, and SUNY-Utica didn't prove to be much competition, but gave us some great opportunities to really focus on what we were doing. They both lacked size, in general, and our hitters were able to swing away. We started to really dial in our passing, which was nice to see, and our serving picked up as well. Once again, everyone played, and contributed to our relatively easy wins. It's always nice to get a few wins under your belt, especially before heading into our Conference weekends, which should all be pretty tough competition.

We should be well-tested before then, however, with St. Mikes and Union coming up, and then the Amherst Classic the following weekend before our first official NESCAC competition. I think that once we get everyone healthy, we could be a very tough team, but we have some work to do to get where we want to be! Some fun preseason pictures should be coming before too long.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pre-Season Fun Set Tone

One of the fun things that happens during pre-season is that the Captains often take the team for a "conditioning" practice away from the gym. This year is was up nearby Snake Mountain. Despite the hectic Freshmen Orientation schedule, our freshmen made it on this jaunt on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon.

The team got in some relaxed conditioning hiking Snake Mtn. It's a high-reward hike because the view you get from the top is well worth the 45 min. hike up!

The returners had more leisure time during pre-season while the Freshmen were busy running from practice to their Orientation activities. Lake Dunmore, south of Middlebury is a favorite spot to go to the beach and enjoy the lake and the sunshine between practices!