Sunday, September 25, 2011

Team Splits at Amherst Classic

The Amherst Classic has been a great weekend of competitive volleyball for several years now, and this was no exception. Coast Guard was our first challenge, and it was a very tough, and close match. Last year we lost in 4 games, three of which we lost by two points each. This year the match was just as close, but went to 5 games. We came out well in the first game, and were in system, and swinging hard, and ended with a 25-16 win. In that first game alone, Amy had 4 kills, Stud and MJ both had 3, and Maddie had 2 kills with only 3 hitting errors between them. We were doing a nice job of mixing up our shots, and we passed pretty well. Stud exploded for 6 kills on 11 swings in the second, but we couldn't couldn't pull out the win and lost 23-25. The third was more of the same back and forth action with both teams making plays, and going on small runs, and we came out on top 26-24. The fourth saw some bigger point swings, as we dug ourselves a bit of a mid-game hole that we ran out of time to climb out of, and thus forced the 5th.

Unfortunately, we came out swinging hard, but had a few hitting errors to start the 5th, and also our serve receive hit a bump in the road, and our out of system play didn't fare so well. After getting down 4-0, we came back and tied it at 6-6 (somewhat on our good play, and somewhat on their errors). It was tied again at 8-8 before hitting our final hump where we were out-scored 7-2 to end the match. It was a disappointing loss for us for sure. Despite the fact that they are a good team, we felt like we were in control of our own destiny, but couldn't come up with the plays in that last part of the 5th game.

Some of our statistical highlights were: Stud and MJ with 18 kills each, Julia with 45 assists, Caitlin with 41 digs, and Piper with 3 blocks.

To top off our night, we were too late to eat at Whole Foods, so we ended up at Subway for dinner. However, the next morning, after sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we set off for Dunkin Donuts on our way to the gym. I'm enjoying my ice coffee almost as much as the team is these days, especially with the humidity down there! We arrived in time to watch some of Brandeis and Coast Guard play, which is always nice when you haven't seen someone play, and don't know much about them but their stats.

Olivia set the first two games against Brandeis, and did a fabulous job in her debut setting this year. I think Courtney made her feel at ease by tossing her a bucket or so of balls ahead of time and easing the "nerves" a bit, but she looked calm and cool in action! Everyone got into the game in this match, and even though a couple of the games were close, we were pretty much in control as we cruised to a 3-0 victory. MJ had 8 kills, 6 blocks, 1 service ace, and 14 digs for her line of stats. Caitlin once again led the defense with 20 digs, and also added 6 service aces. Meg and Lizzy both played well in the back row, and all three middles played solidly. Both Amy and Piper saw some action on the right side, and Nicki served well for Elissa in game three.

Once we finished, the team hit the showers, and Brian and I went to watch the rest of Amherst vs. Coast Guard. Amherst had lost the first two games, but had just come back to win the 4th when we left to go get dinner and head home. We love several of the eating establishments there in Amherst, so we typically spread out and hit our favorites, and then bring them on the bus to eat while we watch a movie on the way home. "The Devil Wears Prada" won out for the return trip, and then a sit-com I'd never heard of before (which, I imagine will continue to happen more and more the older I get?!)

All in all, it was a very good weekend. We did a lot of very nice things, which is great to see. We will continue to work on the things that we want to improve, and the things that we think we do well, and try to each improve enough individually to bring the overall level of the team up a bit each week! In addition, we keep playing different combinations slightly, and when it gels, it's really fun to watch. We are deep, despite our injuries, and many people are contributing, which is really great to see.

We have our only real Home Stretch here next week as we play at home on Wednesday night, and again on Friday and Saturday. Both the Wed. and Friday games will be webcast, for those of you that can't make it out here. Friday night is our only Home Conference match this year when we'll play Amherst at 8pm!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MIDD Wins at Union

The team gelled last night at Union, and we controlled the play pretty much from start to finish. One of our goals going in was to serve them tough, and really challenge their receive, and their defense, and that we did. MJ had 3 service aces to go along with her 7 kills, 4 digs, and a solo block. Amy Hart had another good serving outing with 2 aces of her own, to go with 5 digs, and 3 blocks. Stud led our offense with 11 kills, while hitting .241. Julia once again ran the offense well, getting all hitters involved in the offense.

Our defense for the most part was very solid all night as Caitlin spearheaded that effort with a match high 16 digs. We really only went through a couple of relatively brief stints of "crazy play" and that corresponded to a couple of runs by Union. To give credit where it's due, when they were in system, their outsides were successful, and hit pretty well. The difference was that we were in system much more often due to our defensive effort. Meg and Lizzy combined to play back row for Stud, and Piper played well in the middle hitting at .250 for 2 kills on 8 attempts with no errors. Maddie, after joining us late to the game due to an academic commitment was ready to go and played well with 3 kills and 3 blocks, and Elissa was also solid in the middle.

Our biggest pitfall of the night came when we tried to get into Panerra for dinner right at closing time. We had called ahead, but somehow they didn't relay our message to the right person, and they were locking the door when we arrived. It just so happened that the places right there all closed at 9: Moe's (which would have been great), and Panerra (which we all really wanted.) There was a Subway somewhere close, but we couldn't seem to find it, despite everyone getting onto Google maps etc. from their "smart" phones and telling us it was "close". Anyway, we ended up at a place called "5 guys". It's a greasy burger joint that was very good quality, but it sat like a lump of lead in my stomach all the way home. For a pretty quick match, we still didn't get home until after midnight, so today came all too quickly for most of us.

After a rejuvenating pool workout today, we have one more practice before heading down to the Amherst Classic to face two tough, in-Region competitors in US Coast Guard Academy, and Brandeis. It should be a very good challenge for us as both teams are in the top 15 in the Region, as are we, so we're expecting some very competitive volleyball this weekend.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Conference Weekend Ended in Split

Our first Conference Weekend started out on a good note, since we could finally travel South in Vermont without having to go North first! The roads were all open, and with only a slight detour just south of Rutland before getting on Rte. 103. It had been several years since we'd been to Wesleyan, and we'd never played in their new beautiful new Facility for basketball and volleyball. After that, however, there wasn't a lot to celebrate on Friday night.

Trinity was almost the same team as last year, after losing only their Right Side to graduation, and boasting 6 seniors this year. We'd split with them last year, but had beaten them handily in the Conference Quarters, and felt good going into the match, I thought. We split the first two games, fairly evenly, but after that, it was mostly Trinity. They really only have two hitters, their outsides, and they set them everywhere on the court. You would think we could stop that, but we just didn't ever get in a groove ourselves, and despite their limited hitters, those two are very good hitters. On top of that, Trinity always plays great defense, and you always expect every ball to come back, and they usually do. The stats, however, were basically even, except for a few key areas. We had 5 more hitting errors (9-4 over the last two sets). We struggled on receive with 10 RE to their 4, and we had 4 Ball Handling Errors to their none, but otherwise, the stat lines were pretty similar. When every game is decided by 5 or less points, however, every error makes a difference.

MJ led our offense with 17 kills, while Stud added 12, and Maddie, Elissa, and Amy all had 5 each. Julia ran our offense with 40 assists, and MJ and Caitlin led our defense with 17 and 14 digs. Maddie came through with 4 Block Assists. Piper and Lizzy both saw limited action, but both came off the bench ready to go.

With their seniority, Trinity just seemed to be playing together very well, and I think we seemed to be showing some growing pains. We have shuffled things around just a bit to compensate for some injuries, and I think we just were not quite in a "groove" for lack of a better explanation. In that light, however, we found our groove on Saturday. Saturday dawned a new day, and after a stop at our beloved Dunkin Donuts, we headed for the gym, armed with many an ice coffee, ready for a new challenge.

Despite our caffeine rush, we lost the first game to Wesleyan, but were undaunted in our quest for a victory. In game one, we struggled in serve receive on one particular server, and we got in a rut, and dug a hole, and had trouble climbing out. After that first game, however, we put on a serving show of our own, or should I say, Amy Hart put on a show! Amy had 7 service aces to go along with Julia's 4, to easily overcome their one hot server who had 6 aces against us. We were scrappy, and kept balls in play that had dropped the night before, and we out-blocked them, which was great to see. Our top three hitters (Amy-14, Stud-13, and MJ-10) all hit .380 or better, which is fantastic. Julia ran a varied, and balanced offense which saw us dominate the last three sets not allowing Wesleyan to score more than 15 points in any of those sets.

It's always nice to get a win before getting back on the bus for home. It was Piper's Birthday, too, so the captains had made her a cake, someone brought a balloon, and parents brought goodies, snacks, and dinner for the ride home! We had sandwiches, cookies, homemade salads, cupcakes, cake--needless to say, we do love our food, and fortunately for us, the parents know their kids well and provide us with many wonderful meals. We didn't get our furry hugs and kisses this time, but we'll see Maggie and Chloe again, I'm sure. The Barrett's dogs are like team mascots of sorts!

We hit the court again on Tuesday at Union.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home Opener a Success

Wednesday and Thursday this week were gorgeous VT Fall days. It was warm and sunny with a hint of "Fall smell" to the air. As I walked to the Library to get an extra camera for our Web Casts (yeah!), I noticed that the lawn outside the Library has been covered with flags to remember the victims of 9/11. Despite the sadness, it's very good to remember, and it was a beautiful, yet somber picture.

Now, for our first home match, it wasn't exactly a pretty one, but a win is a win. AND, everybody played, which was great. Norwich had some decent defense, but couldn't come up with very much offense against us last night as we cruised to a 3-0 win. We started off a bit slow with a fairly tight first game which saw us make quite a few unforced errors. After that, we settled at least a little more into a groove. Courtney was distributing the ball around before having to leave the match with an ankle injury early in the 3rd. Julia set most of that last game, but she and Olivia briefly played a 6-2, while Amy hit for Olivia. MJ, Stud, Meg, and Lizzy all played outside, and I think all came up with at least one block, which was great to see. Piper, Maddie and Elissa were all solid in the Middle, and Julia played every role possible, I think. She was very solid in serve receive until we moved her to setting, and she set well after that, and played pretty good defense too. Caitlin and Nicki both played well on defense in the libero spot. We had a mixed serving night with several aces, but also several bad misses to go with them. We're looking forward to some good competition this weekend as we open up our Conference Play with Trinity on Friday night, followed by Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First Road Trip Ends in Split

It was our first road trip of the new season, and unfortunately, we couldn't take our whole team. Nevertheless, we were prepared to play, and play we did on our first day. I guess we were desperate for game action because we extended both of our first day matches to 5 games each. We started out with a tough 5 game loss to St. Mary's of MN. Our first two games were not that pretty, as we clearly were in first-game-of-the-season mode. Fortunately, we got on track and won the next two games fairly handily. We did not come out to start the 5th very strongly, and thus lost that last set, which was a big bummer since we had finally gotten on track, but couldn't quite pull out the win. It was fun to play a solid team from another Region, though, and it was a good test for us. Without Jane, we had the duo of Sarah Studwell, and Meg Anderson playing the front row/back row combo at OH, along with MJ. We had Maddie and Elissa in the middle, and Court setting with Julia playing RH.

Next we had Endicott, whom we had lost to in 5 games last year to start the season. It was a pretty even match all the way through, but as we were entering the 5th game, Elissa was in pain with a throbbing hand. As I looked down at it, it was black and blue, and bulging out around a fairly tight tape job after having jammed her thumb in practice on Thursday. We sent her to the bench, and went with our secret weapon in the Middle: Studwell! We practiced her there some last year, and because of her athleticism and quickness, she was well equipped to handle the challenge. We were in a tight battle in the 5th, but we emerged with the late lead, and hung on to finish out with the win! Stud did a nice job as a very undersized (in comparison to their middles) middle hitter/blocker, and came up with a couple big plays. It was a great team win, with Amy Hart and Meg Anderson combining to play OH, and Stud in the Middle, so that 9 of our 10 players that were dressed all played in the match.

After sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast, we headed back to the gym to watch a bit of the UMass Boston vs. Salve match, since we'd play both those teams later. UMass looked pretty much the same as last year, and we were very excited to play them. We started out fine, and had a close, back and forth first set. After that, however, the wheels seemed to come off. Courtney was having feet troubles, thus affecting her control, which eventually sent her to the bench in pain. Julia switched roles to become the setter, and Amy played RH, and that seemed like it could work, but we just couldn't get anthing going our way, and ended up losing the next two sets badly.

For Salve, however, we got into a groove, and even though I think we were a more talented team, I think we showed a lot of poise and heart to win that one in three straight sets. After winning the first set 28-26, we cruised to a couple of sets keeping them in the teens. Salve was scrappy and tenacious, and kept coming at us, but Julia did a great job setting, and the hitters all started to get into a rhythm, more or less, and we started to play some MIDD VB. So, we have some work for poor Rachel (our trainer), but hopefully we'll get everyone healthy and ready to go again soon!! Nicki was our only Rookie to come and see action so far this season, and that was great to see.

We had some great parent support again, which was fun! We also had a visit from the Barrett Puppies, at different stages of puppy-hood, as can be seen in the pics. I'm not sure who was loving it more, the players hugging the puppies, or the puppies being bathed in all the attention from the players?! We, once again, ate well on the ride home with "The Sandwiches" from Caitlin's mom, and pies and deserts from Julia, Stud, Caitlin, & MJ. We put it all on the bus and ate on the way, which was great since we had to go up to Burlington before coming south again to MIDD due to all the washed out roads everywhere. With 5 hours each way on the bus, having food and good movies is a must! :)

We hit the court again on Wednesday night for our Home Opener against Norwich University.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Missing our Freshmen

While we are leaving on our first road trip of the season, our freshmen will be registering for their classes this semester, and finishing up with Orientation. We ended up with four "Rookies" this year, but since Nicki was a Feb, she's already signed up for classes, and has already had her own Orientation last February, so she gets to come with us. We'll get a good picture of all our Rookies later on, but we thought we'd just highlight our three freshmen here: from left to right: Piper, Olivia, and Lizzy, and say, we're bummed you couldn't come with us to Endicott!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Welcome to the TEAM

We started off the season over a week ago with a mini workshop of sorts so that we could discuss team culture, what defines a team, and what goes along with being a member of a team, among other things. During that meeting, several new ideas came up, and one of them in particular seemed to resonate with the people, especially our captains. This year they decided to have a "presentation" of sorts to everyone on the team, once the team was chosen. We had a lot of competition this year for preseason, so once the coaches made our final decisions, the team was pared down to 14 from the original 18 that tried out. The competition was stiff, and everyone worked really hard, but we had to get down to a smaller number.

Jane and Elissa designed this ceremony on their own, and it was really great. They had everyone on the team hang out in the locker room while they got it ready, and then led them into the gym and out onto the end line of center court.
They then presented each person, one by one, with their game jersey, an MCVB sticker, and a green shoelace to represent our commitment to being a "Green Team" this year. They played inspirational (or fun cheesy, depending on how you look at it!) music, and announced everyone's name, hometown and number and had them come out to center court where they were presented with their uniform. A new tradition was born, I think, and I really liked it! Welcome to the TEAM!!

OH, and Brian brought his usual stash of goodies. What has become a real treat to the team, and was a total surprise, but a happy revelation to the Rookies was Brian's donation to the team of some samples and/or seconds from his work. We are all well stocked on our lip balm of all kinds, thanks to Brian's generosity!! Thank you, Brian!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pre Season Fun

This year's freshmen got to experience a real preseason that has been missed by the last two classes here at MIDD. The past two years Orientation for First Years has started the same day as preseason, which was a bummer for all of us. They were torn between getting to know their teammates and hanging out with their freshmen hall mates. Or, as most will say, they wanted to hang out with the team, but come November, people on their hall were saying, "Who are you?" or "I didn't even know you lived here!"

This year, the first years got to hang out entirely with the team until Tuesday night, when Orientation started, which was great. We were able to do a community service outing to help with Hurricane Relief, and we also had the chance to get into the pool. This is always a fun activity for everyone, and I always get a kick out of watching them frolic in the pool. This time it wasn't even a "sort-of" workout, it was strictly for fun! (I'm sorry the picture is a little blury. I think my new smart phone isn't as "smart" as it's supposed to be?!)

Team Helps with Irene Clean-up

Hurricane Irene hit Vermont especially hard. While the College sustained little to no damage, there was wide-scale damage in almost every direction. The mountain towns were hit especially hard, some being cut off from the rest of the world by bridges and roads leading into and out of town being washed out. Many of the Fall Athletes put aside preseason practices to go and help our neighbors in need.

The amount of help needed was tremendous, and the emails were going out in all directions asking for any assistance. I was approaching my captains to talk about it when they asked me if there was anything that we could do as a team to help out. Now, that's leadership!

Cross country and Field Hockey had the morning shifts taken care of, so we practiced in the morning, and then set out after lunch. Our team was split into two groups and sent to different locations to help clean up brush and debris, and help get houses cleaned up that had mud and water pouring through them only days before.

It was a very rewarding experience, by all accounts. It's amazing what many hands can do in a short amount of time, and their help was greatly appreciated. The groups had to come back across the mountain to get home, and part of Route 125 had been washed away and was down to one lane. They'd been cleared on the way over, but as it was nearing the late afternoon, the road was closing again. It had been opened specially for emergency vehicles, and those helping with the Hurricane Relief, but there was some miscommunication on the way home.

Our first group got through with a convoy of emergency vehicles and other Aid workers. The other group had been working farther away, and was later coming back, and got stranded with half the football team, and Head Football Coach, Bob Ritter. Fortunately, someone came to let them all through, and everyone made it back to campus safely.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

2011 Pre-season Starts with BBQ

2011 Pre-season started with a BBQ at my house. It was a nice, relaxed cookout with all the players and lots of parents. It gave the returners time to not only catch up, but also start to get to know the new players. It's a large group this year for pre-season, which is great, so there were a lot of new faces. Fortunately, Hurricane Irene had already come and gone, as had our power outage and flooded road, so everyone had a clear (or pretty clear) road out to the house. OK, there may have still been some water covering the road, but not entirely. Stud checked it out for everyone and guided them through the couple inches of water still there, and around the "road closed" barricade.

Courtney caught us up a bit on her summer where she befriended her new 7 year old neighbor who is having to undergo a bone marrow transplant now. The pink tee shirt in the photo is for "EMMA." She'll have to be in the hospital for quite a while, and Courtney has been by her side most of the summer. While it was hard for Court to leave her new friend facing such a serious and painful ordeal, she asked the team to sign a shirt to send to Emma to let her know that we are all thinking about her! We'll keep tabs on Emma and give updates. I have a feeling that Emma may become a new fan of our Blog so she can keep tabs on Courtney and the rest of the team!

Steve Oster, our Faculty Affiliate, was able to attend with his family, which was really great. It's always nice for the new players to meet Steve, and for he and the upperclassmen to have a chance to hang out informally. His wife and three girls were here as well, in addition to my Assistant, Brian and his wife and two daughters, and my husband and three kids, so we had quite a houseful.

We are two days into practices now, and feeling like there's just not enough time for everything, but then the cry came out for some assistance, and the team stepped up to the plate. We took the afternoon off today to help with Irene Relief Aid over in Hancock and Rochester--two mountain towns who sustained a lot of storm damage, not to mention road closures that practically cut them off from the rest of the world. I was about to tell the captains about the emails I was getting about desperately needing volunteer workers when they asked if there was anything that they could to do to help with the relief efforts.

Almost every Fall Sports Team has been out helping clear brush, clean up houses and property and debris all over the place. Some towns are still cut off from the outside world by washed out bridges leading into and out of town. Fortunately, Middlebury was mostly spared from the major storm damage, but our neighbors were not as lucky. I'll update soon with hopefully some photos, but we almost had a group stranded on the other side of the mountain tonight....but they're BACK! Everyone enjoyed helping out, and their help was very much appreciated. :)