We were excited to be in the Gold Bracket for the Hall of Fame this year, after having been the #1 seed for the Silver Bracket the last couple of years. The good thing about the Gold Bracket is that all 8 teams there were very good teams, so the competition in every game was going to be great, and we knew that, and we were excited about that challenge!
We started out Friday night matched up against MIT, who we haven't played in many years. They are an athletic team, with pretty good size, and a balanced attack, so we knew it would be a tough match-up for our first round. We started out very well, and jumped on them early. We served well, and got them out of system, and they made a lot of errors. As we expected, however, they bounced back in game two and it was very close, back and forth. Jane had the hot hand in game two and came up with some big kills and we won that game 25-23. After that, it was more back and forth, but we came up with a couple of key blocks, and defensive plays, and pulled away to take the match in 3 with a 25-19 win in the 3rd.
One of the best things about playing the early match, which this time was at 5pm, was that after we played, we could shower, watch some of the next match (we would play the winner of that match), and still have time to go out to a sit-down dinner! For all of our subway nights, and sandwich nights, it was really nice to actually go out to a restaurant and have a real dinner. After that, we went back to the hotel, and had time to hang out that night, and also sleep in the next morning with a match-time on Saturday of noon.
Tufts beat Brandeis in the match we watched some of, so we were to play Tufts the next day at noon. They were without their starting setter, but seemed to be running their full offense other than that, and we were prepared to play a tough match! We got off to a quick start and never looked back. MJ was playing all the way around without Caroline with us, and she did a fantastic job defensively. Julia had a great all-around match with 12 kills, NO errors, on only 24 swings! She also had 3 assists, 3 aces, and 6 digs to round out an excellent match. Jane, Maddie and Elissa all had good hitting nights with only one error a piece and 6, 6, and 5 kills respectively. Jane added 4 service aces and served a match-high 23 times, and also added 10 digs and a solo block to round out her well-balanced game. MJ added 7 kills to help pace the offense as well.
Both Stud, and Amy got in for part of a set each, and both did an excellent job of maintaining, and raising the level of our play right away. Stud came in and immediately made a very head's up play at the net, and played through the front row, and finished off the game serving for game point. Amy, who came in for MJ late in the 3rd set almost immediately got a kill as soon as she came in, and then also buried the match-winner in the deep cross-court angle to finish the match. She finished with two kills on two swings--now that's hitting efficiency!
We had a decent blocking game for us. We had 4 different people with a solo block, and a total of 6 block assists, with Lauren having three of those to go with her 32 assists, 3 aces, 2 kills, and 11 digs! Caitlin was very solid all match with a team-high 20 digs, and no receiving errors.
Due to the format, we then had a match off with time to actually eat lunch, and read, do work, or watch volleyball. We quickly went over to watch the end of the Amherst vs. Bowdoin match to see who we'd be playing at 4pm. Bowdoin, after upsetting the #6 seed Springfield in 5 sets the night before, was beating Amherst, and thus we ended up playing Bowdoin for the finals.
They were very "up" after two great wins, and we knew they'd be a tough match. We'd played them twice already this season, and won in 3, and 4, but both of us seemed to be playing very well right now, so it was shaping up to be a great match-up. We got off to another great start, and once again, never looked back. We dominated the game, which was very fun to see. We served well, we blocked and hit pretty well, and our defense was very solid. We forced them out of what they wanted to do offensively, and out of serve receive, and took control of the tempo of the game. We won the match with scores of 25-15, 25-15, and 25-20. They didn't go without a fight, and when they made a late run in the 3rd set, we held them off with some great team play. MJ, who struggled a bit hitting against Tufts, bounced right back with 12 kills to lead the offense (and also had 2 blocks), while Jane had 9 kills with only 1 error.
With our balanced attack all weekend, Lauren was awarded the Tournament MVP for leading the way. To our surprise, (and, I guess, it shouldn't have been a surprise for me, but I'd missed it somewhere along the way), by winning the Gold Bracket, we also won a NEW set of Mizuno jerseys!! How FUN. The team was beside themselves, and almost thought it was a joke, (albeit, a bad one if it was one!) So, that was a fun surprise! I think we all felt good about how we played as a team, and we made sure to recognize the fact that it was a TOTAL TEAM effort. Without the support, and hard work of everyone on the team, day in and day out, we wouldn't be adequately prepared for weekends like this. We played well, which was great to see. GO TEAM! We have a big weekend coming up next weekend with our final two Conference matches at Hamilton. We'll work hard this week to be ready for that. One day at a time!