We knew going into the weekend that it would be a good challenge for us. We didn't particularly practice all that well on Thursday, but I think we still felt good going into the match on Friday. Coast Guard and Brandeis were both top 15 teams in the Region, and we were looking forward to some great matches.
US Coast Guard was a very athletic team, as you might imagine, and even though our front line was bigger, they blocked us very well. We got out to an early lead, and they made a run mid-game, and from there on out it was a very tight match. They were definitely the most athletic team we've played this year, and their defense was very tough, keeping everything alive, even when it seemed the ball was going to go down.
The funny thing about that match (not ha ha funny), is that we actually scored more points then they did. In the one game that we won, we won by 7 points. They won the other three games, each by 2 points. We just couldn't seem to pull out any of those close sets. We seemed a little out of sorts all night. It wasn't any one thing that I could put my finger on, but it was a subtle, intangible mental aspect, or lack of enthusiasm, or something. Possibly without Caroline, we were thrown off, but MJ did a great job in the back row, so I can't really put my finger on it. We actually passed pretty well, and our defense was pretty solid, but we made just enough mistakes at key times that made the difference. We had too many service errors, and some repeated blocking mistakes which we will try to shore up in the next week.
The next day, we started out a little flat. We lost the first two games to an experienced, but seemingly unfit Brandeis team. We tried different people, and finally got in a bit of a groove in the 3rd and 4th sets, and looked as though we were going to get out of our funk, when the 5th set started. We got down by 7 points right off the bat, and never recovered. We made a great effort to get back in it by bringing it to 6-8, but that's as close as it would get. I think they just out-played us in the 5th, flat out, and that's what we can't have going forward.
We did manage to come out of the weekend with a win by beating an ever-better Westfield State team. We again put several different combos out on the floor in this match, and actually completely dominated them from start to finish.
It was a very good challenge for us this weekend, and we'll face just as tough and tougher competition in Conference, so as long as we learn from this, it'll all be fine in the end. We showed some good signs this weekend, they just came in spurts, and we need to be a little more mentally tough. Against the good teams, there is very little margin of error, and the team that can get it done when the game is on the line will win. Better to have that lesson hit home now, then at crunch time later in the season.
We did have several bright spots on the weekend. We had some great play off the bench with Stud and Maddie giving us a big lift against Brandeis. MJ and Courtney played some very solid back row defense, and Charlotte Ching came in a did a great job in a serving/defensive role. Courtney set a couple games against Westfield, and Amy Hart hit well in that last match. For some of our starters, our hitting percentages were down this weekend, due to some great defense, and tough blocking, but overall we played some solid volleyball. We had good set distribution against USCG, but Julia and MJ were the two that came through with double-digit kilss. Julia had 14 kills on 34 attempts, and MJ had 12 kills but also tacked on several hitting errors. Against Brandeis, it was Jane who was our lone offensive power as the only one with double-digit kills at 23! We had 14 receiving errors, which is too many.
We, once again, have plenty of things to work on! We play a mid-week away at Colby-Sawyer before heading to Maine to play both Bates and Colby this weekend.