Sunday, October 10, 2010

Parent's Weekend Brings TWO Conference Wins!

Weekends like this, we say, "What a great day to be a Panther!" It was a gorgeous Fall Weekend to have it be Parent's Weekend here at Middlebury. Despite being inside for our matches, I think everyone still had a chance to get out Saturday morning, or later Saturday afternoon with their parents to enjoy the beautiful Fall colors! It was great because everyone but three players, I think, had at least one parent here.

On Friday night we were the only athletic action on campus, and we had a great crowd for the first of two big Conference Matches. Despite showing up a little late, Bowdoin put up a good fight. We cruised out to a big lead in the first game, and even though they staged a late run, we closed it out 25-19. The second game was closer, and more of a back and forth battle, but we won to go up 2-0. We knew they weren't going away--they had just come off recent matches where they staged two come from behind victories in 5 games (after losing the first two sets), so we knew they had some fight left in them. Behind some strong net play, balanced scoring, and some tough serving, they took set 3by a score of 21-25.

We almost looked like we might be rattled by that, as we finished out the game a little flat, but we came out at the start of the 4th set with a steely look that we were not to be denied. We dominated the 4th 25-15, and that was that. Jane and Elissa led our offense with 11, and 9 kills respectively. Julia and MJ both had 8 kills to go along with that, but struggled more with hitting %. The great thing about the balance of our team this year is that we often change up who has the hot hand, and have had consistently balanced scoring overall. Caitlin and Caroline again led our defensive effort with 31, and 20 digs, and Elissa had 6 blocks!

After the match, the parents had a scrumptious dinner planned for us in Lawson Lounge, which made it really convenient for us to all be together and celebrate all the parents being around, and our win, but also be able to easily get back in the gym to watch some of the Amherst vs. Tufts match. THANK YOU, parents! It's nice to have the luxury of watching the team you'll play the next day.

Saturday proved to be even better. We hosted Tufts (for the third year in a row, somehow!) Last year they came to play us at home ranked #1 in New England, and we knocked them off 3-1. This year, they came in ranked #2 in New England, and we did it again, 3-1. Amherst had beaten them the night before, and I wasn't sure if that would end up being a good thing, or a bad thing for us. Sometimes, when a team like that takes a loss, they come out with fire in their blood the next day. Well, after the first game, it didn't seem to matter what they did because we were the ones with fire in our blood.

The first game they took easily while we looked a bit like deer in headlights. Fortunately, we shook off that dazed look, and started to settle down and just play our game. We got right back in it by taking the next set decisively 25-18. The next two sets would prove to be tough battles. I think we showed a lot of poise coming down the stretch in both of those games, and stuck to our game plan, and just fought it out and won. We made plays when we needed to, and in both games had a late surge where we scored a couple points in a row on our serve in the 20's, instead of just trading points as we'd been doing with them, and that ended up being the difference as we won both games by scores of 25-22. We had a pretty balanced attack, as both Jane and MJ had double digit kills, and Julia had 9, and Elissa had 7. Elissa came through with a big serving night with 3 aces, and a timely run to put set 2 (I think?) out of reach for Tufts.

Defensively, we had a lot of total hustle plays. We may not have made it look easy by being in the "right" spot for a lot of digs. I think we actually made it look hard by scrambling and getting balls just barely up, but keeping them in play. Julia even demonstrated the "Pursuit Rule" by going out and around the post on the other side of the net to play the ball back toward our side, and then we got it over (which IS legal!) Caitlin and Jane both had 17 digs, but the big defensive night was for both Julia and Lauren, who had 17, and 22 digs respectively! Maddie led our blocking effort with 3 block assists.

As I told the team after the match, it was a total team effort! Whit was unable to play this weekend after spraining an ankle in practice on Wednesday. Maddie just stepped right in and we didn't miss a beat. Our practices are very competitive because we are able to run our own offense on both sides of the net every day, and challenge ourselves constantly. Now, our goal is to keep that going, and keep improving on both our individual skills, and our team skills. We are on the right path, but we still have a lot of work to do to be the team we want to be by the end of the season!

We travel tomorrow to play a very tough out-of-region opponent in Skidmore College before heading to Amherst this weekend for another round of Conference Matches. It's all three CT schools this weekend, starting with Wesleyan on Friday night, followed by Conn, and Trinity on Saturday. It's all getting very interesting now as we've passed the half-way point of the season.

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