Thursday, November 17, 2011

Post Season Honors Come Out

I'd say that Middlebury was well represented in post-season honors. Several players were recognized in one way or another, so here goes:

Elissa Goeke was selected to be on the NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team, and also was recognized as a New England Senior Classic Honoree. This award honors the top 25 seniors in New England, so congratulations to Elissa.

Jane Handel was also selected as a NE Senior Classic Honoree, in addition to being named once again a First Team All-NESCAC member. She was also awarded 2nd Team All New England by NEWVA (New England Coaches Association). Congratulations to Jane for all of her accomplishments, especially considering that she only played in about 60 % of our games this year due to her injury.

Caitlin Barrett came home with a couple of big honors this year as our only Honorable Mention All-American, and only representative on the AVCA All-Region Team! Caitlin was also selected for the 2nd Team All-New England by NEWVA, and 2nd Team All-NESCAC. Well done, Caitlin!

Julia Gibbs was honored as an Honorable Mention All-Region by the AVCA, and also on the 2nd Team All-NESCAC. In addition, she was honored as All-Tournament for the NCAA Regional. Congratulations Julia for your accomplishments this year, and all while playing in a new position!

Megan Jarchow (MJ) was honored as and Honorable Mention All-Region by the AVCA, and also joined Jane on the 1st Team All-NESCAC. In addition, MJ was also awarded the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. Some very nice honors to post as a sophomore! Well done, MJ!

Amy Hart was honored on the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team this year, which is a very nice testament to how well she played all weekend. Amy posted one of her strongest weekends of play on the biggest stage, which is just great competitiveness! Amy hit .433 for the final match vs. Cortland, and .371 for the weekend. Great job, Amy.

I think the only awards that haven't come out yet are the Academic All-Conference awards, so very nice job everyone. Those are some impressive awards!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MIDD Ends Season at Sweet 16!

Advancing to the Regional Finals was another step forward for our Program. Cortland proved to be a tough foe, and although the match was very competitive, they ended our season by winning their 42nd match against only one loss all season.

We did get to see them play a couple of times, both Friday and Saturday, and we knew they would be a tough team. We felt like their strength was their blocking, but that their floor defense could be a weakness, and if we could stay in system and on the offensive, then we could really pressure them. Offensively, we felt like we could match them. We were successful to start out, and we served them tough, and jumped out to an early lead. Although they closed it to a few, they never pulled even, and we surged ahead at the end to have 8 set points at 24-17. They gained some momentum as they scored four behind some good blocking and a couple of errors on our part before we closed out the set.

They came out strong behind that slight momentum shift late in the second set, but we were attacking well too, and despite the back-and-forth nature of that game, there were a couple of small runs to end the game, and unfortunately, we didn't have the last one. We came back from down 20-17 to go up by one at 21-20, but they closed it out at 25-22 on their final run to end the set.

The third set turned out to be a big one. It was a game of swings as we jumped out early to an 11-6 advantage, only to have them go on a run of their own to take a 14-11 advantage. They kept pushing it to 22-17, but we fought back with a late run of our own to tie it at 23 which showed a lot of grit and determination. We fought off two set points and tied it both times to keep pushing extra points, but never gained a set point of our own, and eventually fell 27-25.

We seemed undaunted by the setback, and we've certainly been in that position several times earlier in the year, and we came out trading points with them in what had been, and continued to be a very even match back and forth. Down one at 14-15, they put a dagger in us by going on a 7 point, unanswered run. Despite a timeout, we couldn't get a stop, and from that point, they closed out the match with a 10-5 run to earn them a trip to St. Louis and the Elite 8.

I think at that point in the season, a loss is devastating, especially in a very competitive and tight match. We felt like we played well, but could have played better down the stretch, but isn't that usually the case when you lose? SUNY Cortland was a very good team that had only lost one match all year, and they had a lot of different weapons, as did we, but we forced them to really earn the win.

Our goal had been to get our hitting % as a team up above .200, which we did for not only this match, but had been consistently doing toward the end of the season enough to put us at .201 for the season, good enough for 4th in NESCAC. After being in the bottom half all season in that category, that was good news, and to hit .217 against Cortland, who is a very good blocking team, that was good to see. Amy Hart hit an impressive .448, Maddie was .500, and MJ was .316 to lead our offensive efficiency! We were, however, out-blocked 18-6, and that was an insurmountable difference. We actually ended with more kills, and service aces, and less blocking errors and receiving errors, but ended with 8 more hitting errors. The stats don't always tell the story, however, and we fought for the match, and had some people really step up along the way to get us to where we were. Great Team Effort!

All in all, it was a fantastic season. Having to start without a senior captain for half of the season, and losing our starting setter early in the season gave us some adjustments to make. The team depth proved to be very important and people stepped up, and we just kept trying to move forward and keep improving as the season went along, and I think we did an excellent job of that. We seemed to hit stride late in the season, and made a great run through the NESCAC Tournament until we came up against Bowdoin in the Finals, but honestly, it could have been the Conference Semi-final win over Tufts that put is in the NCAA's?! Hard to say, but our strength of schedule certainly helped too, as we had strongest schedule in all of New England according to the NCAA criteria.

Next year will be yet another new team dynamic, and we'll once again set forth trying to be the best we can be and see if we can take another step forward for the MCVB Program. With the past couple of seasons, it's getting tougher and tougher to top, but then, we all love a good challenge!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MIDD Advances to Regional Finals!

Earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament was a thrill for us this year. We'd put ourselves in about the best position we could, without winning the Conference Championships, so we awaited the selection show to determine our fate. Fate was good to us, as we not only received an at-large bid, but also drew the #2 seed in the NY Region! We'd been about 5th in the latest NE poll, so it was a good draw to be "shipped out" in this case.

We headed to Clarkson University on Thursday night after practice and dinner, so we'd be there in plenty of time, and well rested for our afternoon game on Friday. We were due to play Colby-Sawyer, whom we'd beaten somewhat handily earlier in the season, but at this point in the season, we all know there are no easy wins!

We felt like we were ready to play, and not overlooking anyone, but we just didn't come out super sharp, and they came out ready to go! They were ready for us, and were playing very well to start out, and we trailed by a few points for most of that first set. We did start to come alive, as we finally got our offense clicking, and finished out the first set for the win. The second set was fairly close as well, but after the MH from Colby-Sawyer went out with an ankle injury, their offense struggled a bit, as they shifted people around, and finally our offense just took control, and we cruised to an easier victory in the last set.

The next day we faced a Skidmore team who has also lost a Middle to an ankle injury the night before! I think that first day, three teams all lost a MH with an ankle injury. At any rate, Skidmore put up a tremendous fight, much more competitive than they had the first time we'd played them, which we expected they would.

We had one of our best hitting percentage nights when both MJ and Amy were hitting over .400, and Jane was .324. We've talked about getting our hitting % as a team above .200, and for the night we were .297, and against a good team, which was great to see. We traded points for a good part of the first set before getting a slight advantage late in the teens, and then trading points again to finish a few points ahead. The second set our offense was on fire, and they couldn't get a hand on our hitters either at the net, nor on defense. The final set was back and forth again, but we got some key blocks and enough offense to close it out before Skidmore could force it into extra points, or another set.

That put us into the Regional Finals, which is one step farther than we've ever gone before, and that was exciting. We stayed to watch some of the next match to get a good look at the team (whichever one won) that we'd play the next day for all the marbles. It looked as if SUNY Cortland would win, and they were huge, but we'd all decided that their defense was shaky at times, and if we could stay in system, and stay on the attack, we could not only play with them, but also WIN!!

With that in mind, we headed to dinner at a cute little Italian place in downtown Potsdam for a quiet team dinner. Well, truth be told, we actually headed to Ponderosa first, but then realized that they really don't have anything without big pieces of meat everywhere, and it just seemed to be a bit too much, so we left and headed to the cute little Italian place, which ended up being perfect. The parents all headed off together in a different direction and sent us their picture, clearly all enjoying themselves, which is fantastic! They've created quite a MCVB family of their own, which is very nice.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

MIDD Falls in NESCAC Championship, Still Going to NCAA's

It was a gorgeous Fall weekend in Maine, even for an indoor sport. Unfortunately, Brian had to miss this trip because his brother was getting married in California. He was very anxiously checking his phone (good timing getting a cell phone, which he's only had for a month or two!) for scores and updates, and I think he even watched some of the webcasts! Now, that's dedication! In his absence, I enlisted the help of a former MIDD standout, and leader to be my assistant for the weekend. Lauren Barrett made her return to the MIDD bench, but unlike her entire time at MIDD, she never left the bench. It's much different from the sidelines, but Lauren was a fabulous addition to our staff, and was great in her new role as a coach.

Friday evening we took on the Camels from CONN, who were back to full strength with the return of their top hitter and NESCAC kill leader, Amy Newman. We were excited to play them, and we knew it would be a different match this time around with her, but we were ready! We blocked really well, and our goal was to minimize the impact of Newman, which we did. We won in three straight, and in somewhat commanding fashion, although at that point in the season, every win is hard fought.

The next day we faced Tufts in the semi's. We walked around town to get lunch, and enjoyed the sunshine and warm Fall weather before heading to the gym. After a very disappointing loss to them earlier in the season, we were ready to prove to ourselves that we were better than that. It was a great match all around. Every game was very close, and we needed extra points in two sets to pull out the four set victory. We were down 21-19, and 24-23 before pulling out the 26-24 victory in the 4th, and a return to the Championship game!

Sunday, we made our routine stop at Dunkin Donuts, and got to the gym early enough to walk around campus and stretch our legs, as usual. We were playing the host polar bears, who had had a tough fight with Trinity the night before, but were victorious in 4 sets. Having lost in 5 to them earlier in the season, we knew we not only could play with them, but felt that we could definitely beat them if we played the way we had been playing. I thought we matched up pretty well with them, and thought we could be in for a back and forth fight to the finish. Well, we came out a bit flat, and they came out on fire, and that was not a great combination for us. They got their middles going early, and right in rhythm, and we felt a half step slow on several counts. Needless to say, we lost in three straight, and although the games were all relatively close, we really weren't ever in control of any part of the match.

It was a very disappointing way to end the season, especially after having played so well the previous two days. We arrived home with some uncertainty about whether or not our season was over or not. We would be considered for an at-large bid for the NCAA's, but I was very unsure if we would get it or not.

Monday late morning when the selection show was underway, we received our good news that we were IN! Not only that, but it appeared that we had been moved to the NY Regional, and had the #2 seed, which was very unexpected. We headed over to Clarkson after practice Thursday night in preparation to play Colby-Sawyer on Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

MIDD Wins Final Regular Season Match

It's by far our shortest trip, up to St. Mikes, and we got there really early with absolutely no traffic whatsoever, which was nice. It took us just over an hour, which to go just north of Burlington is pretty good time. We couldn't even get in the gym until 5:30 because Basketball practice was going on. We warmed up, and seemed ready to go, other than Julia forgetting to bring her shoes?! St. Mikes was a little unimpressive to start out, and the gym was pretty empty and QUIET, it was an odd atmosphere. We were sluggish getting going, but still managed to control the first two sets pretty well.

The next two sets, however, we didn't seem to pull away at any point, and just remained point for point, and then our errors hurt us as they pulled out the 3rd and 4th sets by 2 points each. They seemed to come alive a bit more, and Fortunately, we got at least a little bit more on track for the 5th. Despite never really getting in a good rhythm, we prevailed by controlling the 5th set for the win.

The highlights of the match were we out-blocked them 18-6, and our hitting percentage for the match was .247. Our goal has been to get it above .200, and our team average is closing in on that number, which is good. Jane and Amy had the hot hands with 17, and 16 kills respectively, and MJ and Stud combined for another 10. Piper had 5 kills on 7 swings, to go with 5 blocks in her 4 games. Maddie had 4 kills and Elissa added 5, while Julia had 5 aces to go with 3 blocks and 51 assists on the night.

We know we will face better competition this weekend, so we still have two more days to practice hard and be sharp to take on our NESCAC foes!! We are preparing to play our best volleyball this weekend where we'll take on Conn at 8pm on Friday night in the #3 vs #6 match-up! LET's GO MIDD!!!