Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tough Weekend for Panthers

This was a big weekend for us, having to play all three CT schools. We figured they'd all be tough, but we knew that Conn. and Trinity had just battled out a back and forth 5 game match between themselves, and they'd both probably be the tougher competition. The weekend started out well with a convincing 3-0 win against Wesleyan. We played well, and felt good about what we were doing. We had arrived in time to watch some of the Amherst vs. Trinity match before our match, and it was nice to see what Trinity was doing live. We then got refocused on our upcoming match, and we did a nice job of coming out strong, and finishing strong against Wesleyan.

The next morning we faced a tough Conn College team, but despite being behind most of the first set, we pulled out an almost unlikely win in that set 25-23. They serve pretty tough, and our receive was struggling with that, so it wasn't pretty, but both sides were getting in their kills. The second set was much the same as the first, but we didn't get quite as far behind, but we still were trailing a fair amount. Again, we surged ahead toward the end to get a 2-0 lead by the slim margin of 25-23. We knew they weren't going anywhere, and #12 seemed to just hit harder, and try as we did, we couldn't seem to muster the string at the end to pull out the 3rd set, but we still lead 2-1.

We dropped the 4th just barely by two points again, and it was that type of match--back and forth all the way. Neither team getting much of a lead at any one time. The fifth was the same and was tied at 10-10 before a string of tough serving put us on the defensive a little too much. Four of the last five serves to us were either shanked, or rated a 1-pass, which means we had very few hitting options out of serve receive, and I think that hurt a little too much. We'd struggled with our receive all night, a little run by them at that point was tough to come back from, and they scored the last five points in a row to win the match.

After the hard-fought loss to Conn in 5, we had about 30 minutes to regroup and get ready to play Trinity, who had just watched a good bit of our match with Conn. We knew they would be scrappy and dig a ton, and we thought we were prepared for that. Our serve receive looked much better than it had in the Conn match, but it seemed to be "off-speed" balls that gave us some unexpected trouble. We knew their two outsides, and their right side were their main offensive weapons, but we didn't seem to shut any of them down much with our Block, and were left to dig from the back row. #7 hurt us hitting around the block deep, where we weren't, which was a little frustrating, but she's a good hitter. One of the middles was hitting off-speed to 1, where it should have been relatively easy to dig, but more went down than we'd have liked from that spot as well.

We were attacking Trinity, and they were digging pretty well, but when they'd give us either a back-row attack, or a free or off-speed ball, we just didn't seem to be moving our feet to pass it perfectly. Instead, we were passing it up to the middle of the court, or off the net so Lauren had to chase it, and it took our Middles a little out of the offense, and thus made our OH's more affected by a cheating block. Then they started to dig that much more, and block us some.

We knew their defense was pretty deep, and we struggled to really use different speed shots that well. We tried hitting all different angles, but mostly deep where their diggers were. I will say, however, that for losing the first two games after just coming off a tough 5 gamer with Conn, I think we did a nice job keeping our wits about us and winning the next two games to force another 5th game. We started out the game well, and even though we were down when we switched sides at 8, it was only 6-8. We tied the game and even went up 13-10, (I think), but lost a couple in a row before calling timeout at 13-12. We went up 14-13, but then they hit one deep over our block to zone 6, and tooled our block twice, and that was the match.

Of course, it was extremely tough to lose both of those matches in 5. I do believe, however, that we will learn from this, and be stronger for it. We've not had a lot of experience with super scrappy teams that just dig a ton, and have good hitters, and I think this will benefit us in the long run. We have actually shown a lot of poise in several matches so far this year in coming from behind to win individual sets, and that calmness under pressure is good to see. I think we have the calmness under pressure, but we may need the "sense of urgency" at times also?! Toward the end of Trinity, however, we didn't seem to be as sure of ourselves, as we have in the past, and we actually had a couple of miscommunications, which are uncharacteristic.

In my opinion, Trinity out-played us and deserved to win. It's the NESCAC, and that's the way it is. You have to be ready every match, and every point within the match. There will be tough breaks, and great shots on both sides, and you have to be playing your best to win against any one of the top NESCAC teams. Even though they had very good hitters, and they play very good defense, I don't think we took good enough care of the ball when they were just keeping it in play. We made some of the tough plays, and we made a lot of good plays, but didn't make the easy plays good enough to really maximize our offense. In addition, I don't think we have reached our full potential of our offensive talents yet, which is something that we'll be working on. I think we do certain things really well, for the most part, but we need to have a few more options. Our blocking is improving, but we still have some work to do there, and obviously, we will still be working on consistency with our serve receive.

We have some great matches coming up before we head into our last Conference Weekend, and then the Tournament. Senior night is Wed. against Plymouth State, and then we head to the Hall of Fame Tournament, where we'll play MIT on Friday night. There will be most of the top teams in New England there, and it will be another great opportunity to test our resolve and skills!

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