In Quarterfinals, we faced Trinity, who had beaten us earlier in the year at Amherst in five games. We were excited by the match-up because I think we wanted to prove that we could beat Trinity. I'd say everyone played pretty well in that match, but our lone rookie in the lineup had a particularly stellar game with 18 kills, 1 error on 25 swings! They couldn't seem to do anything to stop her. Julia and Jane also had good hitting nights, as they added 11 and 10 kills respectively with only 2 errors a piece. And after missing the first match-up with Trinity with an ankle sprain, Whit had 4 kills on 12 swings with no errors, while Lauren had 45 assists and Caitlin had 22 digs to lead the defense. After the match, we went to Whole Foods to get dinner-to-go so we could get back to the gym to watch the Bowdoin vs. Williams quarterfinal, whose winner we'd play on Saturday. We love Whole Foods, and hadn't had the chance to go there yet this year, so that was fun--we do love our food!
With the win, that meant that we got to spend the night and got another chance to play together. After a nice night in the hotel, we had a leisurely breakfast, hung out a bit at the hotel, went into town to grab a sandwich for lunch, and headed back to the gym to hang out some more until our 3:30 match that afternoon. We were excited to watch the Tufts vs. Amherst match at 1:00pm--never too much volleyball. Tufts had been "on" the night before as they beat Conn in 3, and by all accounts looked tough. Amherst came out a little tight it seemed, and never really got going, while Tufts just took command of the game and won in straight sets!
We knew Williams would be a tough opponent because we'd watched them upend Bowdoin fairly easily the night before behind some pretty tough play by their seniors, one of whom is the older sister of our very own Meg! This match was another true team match as different people stepped up at different times to help carry the team. Jane and Julia took control of the first game as they had 8 and 5 kills in the first set alone. The second set saw us have 15 kills with only 1 error combined as a team. In the 3rd set, Whit had 4 kills on 8 swings, with no errors, and Julia had 6 kills with only 1 error to propell us to victory.
I believe we were down 13-18 in that 3rd set before we started our slow, but steady comeback. Williams had seemed to take control of that third set and looked as though they might take it, when we slowly started our comeback. We called a timeout at 13-18, and then Whit had 3 kills pretty quickly to spark our comeback. What may have tipped the scale for good was a HUGE block on their big middle on her patented slide play that Elissa was all over, and sent it back to the floor quickly. That both sparked us, and seemed to put some doubt on the faces of the Williams team. MJ also got a late service ace to help seal the deal (and I believe that she aced Williams last time on match point?!) It took guts, poise, and confidence to come back and pull out that last set. We've shown that poise and determination several times over the course of this season, but it was great to be able to come from behind by that many points late in the game against a team like Williams! Caitlin came up huge with some incredible digs in places we never could have told her to be, and Elissa also had a couple of huge digs to go along with her great serving game.
We finally tracked down some rooms for another night (something big was going on in the area because the whole town was booked solid.) We ended up in Holyoke, but not before we had a wonderful sit-down dinner at Bertucci's with all the parents. What a TREAT! Great food, time to eat and relax, and also being able to share that experience with our "super-fans!" We had great parent and friend fans there, and Jane's mom actually made big M shirts for the parents to wear for spirit, in addition to many signs that someone made! (We found out on the bus ride home that Kelli actually used an exacto knife to make the M stencil for the shirts--she's a teacher for sure with creativity skills like that!)
Daylight savings happened on Saturday night, so we all felt like we should have been better rested than we actually felt on Sunday morning, but nevertheless, we were ready to go. We knew Tufts was going to be a different challenge than we'd faced in the Tournament to date because they were the most balanced team offensively. So, it was no surprise that we traded sets to start off the match. They were blocking well, and actually tipping a lot on us, which was a little surprising, but effective. We finally got a handle on that to a certain extent, but we also got in a rhythm finally where our hitters could see the spots open up more and found some places to put the ball down. Something happened to Jane's foot somewhere in the 4th game too, and she had to come out to get taped up, and Stud came off the bench and stepped in right away. She passed well out of serve receive, got some touches on blocks, and got a kill, which was GREAT. Once again, (we've said it all season), our depth has been a catalyst for us every day in practice, and in instances like this, it's just reinforcement of how important that is! Way to go, Stud!
I haven't seen Tufts stats, but they seemed to be hitting pretty well, from both the right and left sides, in addition to one of the middles, and I have to say that Caitlin came up with so many big, big digs and she saved many, many balls from going down, and gave our offense a chance to attack back when it seemed that the ball was going to go down. They'd have a big, powerful hit that would just pop back up to Lauren and then we'd be off again attacking ourselves. They attacked the right side of our defense a lot too, and Lauren and Julia both came up with 16 digs in the match. It was a very competitive, back and forth match, which made for an exciting Championship Match.
My hat's off to Tufts. It was a great match, and they looked like they might be forcing a 5th game when they were up late in the 4th. But, once again, we staged a poised, if not somewhat precarious comeback again to take the final set 26-24. Caitlin had 42 digs in the match, while MJ had 23 digs and 16 kills. Lauren ended with 49 assists, and 16 digs, while Jane had 15 kills, 3 blocks and 2 aces. Julia had 3 aces, 9 kills, 16 digs, and no reception errors on 35 attempts for a very balanced game.
WAY TO GO, MIDD!! NESCAC CHAMPS!! We heard congrats from all kinds of friends and alums--it was a great day for MIDD Volleyball as the team, parents, alums and friends all celebrated with us, both courtside, and from afar. Our AD said that the President was watching the webcast while he was out and about, and had attracted a small crowd to see what was going on as well, which was fun to hear! It was a good day in general to be a Panther as the men's soccer team also won the NESCAC's!! Yeah Midd! Now, we'll get some rest tomorrow and then get another chance to practice and prepare for what lies ahead--the NCAA's--new territory for us. Should be FUN!