Sunday, December 9, 2012

Team Celebrates Season with Banquet

 Another season come and gone.  It seems to happen faster and faster, but maybe that's my age?!  At this point in the season when we try to find a time for our Banquet, I'm amazed that we ever can all come together for practice at the same time.  Finding a time that "works for everyone" is practically impossible, but somehow we pull it off every year.  The Waybury Inn was the location of our dinner this year, and it was a fabulous evening!  A huge THANK YOU to Piper's parents for organizing our dinner!!  That's a huge help, and much appreciated!!

The official reason for having our Banquet is to celebrate our season, but the "real" reason is to get together again and share food and friendship.  Let's face it, we all love to eat and talk!  It's a very busy time of the year for everyone, but it's nice to get back together as a team to celebrate our successes and efforts from the season. 

Each year the players vote on our Team Awards, and the award winners this year were the following:

Contribution on the Court:  Julia Gibbs--probably one of the most all-around, fundamentally sound players we've ever had--great recognition from her teammates for this award, and very deserving.

Contribution off Court:  Meg Anderson--consistently very positive and hard-working regardless of score, side of the net in practice, whether playing or not in games.  Meg has a wonderful perspective and is always enthusiastic--again, great recognition by her teammates for her special efforts.

MCVB Spirit:  Nicki--two years in a row now, she may "define" the MCVB Spirit!!  Bringing the spirit to practice, the bench, the court, the bus...gotta love the spirit!!

Most Improved:  Kathryn was recognized for really stepping up as the season went on and when called upon to play in games, she shed any hesitations as a freshman and took control of our offense.  She steadied our offense and the court, helping to propel us to the NESCAC Championship--well done!!

Captains for 2013:  Meg, MJ, and Amy--a great combination of talents, on and off the court.  I'm looking forward to working with these three, and am confident in and excited about their leadership abilities!

For our SENIORS, this is truly the end, but just as "commencement" is the term for the graduation ceremony, this is their "beginning" of being an MCVB Alum!  We'll do our best to keep track of them, and hopefully they'll follow us on-line next year from wherever they are!  I want to recognize our four, fabulous seniors for their tremendous careers:

Sarah Studwell played very important roles throughout her career, and had the versatility and athleticism to play many different positions.    She was mainly an outside, both front row and back, but also played as a back-up middle hitter, stepping in during a critical 5th game against Endicott last year (which we won!)  She capped off her career with a fabulous senior season at OH/DS, and especially stepped up during the NESCAC Tournament and was brilliant!  She was digging a ton of very hard hit balls right up to Kathryn, and served up 5 aces in the semifinal against Bowdoin.  Great stuff, Stud!!

Julia Gibbs had a tremendous career, starting with being named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year her freshman year, and being named 2nd Team All-NESCAC each of the next three years.  As we said above, she's one of the most all-around fundamentally sound players I've coached.  Her versatility to step in and become our full-time setter last year, and lead us to the NCAA Regional Final was inspiring.  This year, her cumulative stats were thrown off due to spending half the season setting before switching back to her original position of right side hitter.  It was great to have her back in serve receive, and hitting from both the front row and the back.  She was 2nd on the team in service aces, digs, assists, and reception percentage, and has also been recognized as an Honorable Mention All-American, and All-Region selection during her career!  Wonderful job all-around, Julia!!

Maddie Firestone just kept getting better every year.  From backwards footwork and a powerful arm swing her freshman year to a blocking machine her senior year--I loved every minute of working with Maddie "Rookie" Firestone.  Maddie played a crucial role in our first NESCAC Championship run her sophomore year by stepping in for an injured Whitney Bean in the heart of our Nescac schedule during the regular season.  We went on a tear during that stretch and narrowly missed hosting, but claimed the 2nd seed, and eventual Championship!  Even when she stole Colby's camera tripod (by accident!) she managed to make us all smile with her.  As a starter the past two years, Maddie was a consistent offensive force tying for 2nd on the team in hitting % among the hitters this past year.  She capped off her career as a captain, showing great leadership and maturity--great stuff, Maddie!!

Caitlin Barrett came in as one of our "younger sisters"--she was part of the third set of sisters to play for me.  Caitlin's competitive spirit, work ethic, and ability to dig and pass balls in places we could never tell her to be was amazing to witness.  I'm not sure how many times I said to her, just go where YOU think the ball will be--you have free reign to wander...Her command of the backcourt and leadership on and off the court helped set the tone for the team and was a huge reason for our success.  In addition to absolutely single handedly saving tons of rallies from ending by getting her body under balls that were practically (but not quite) down on the ground, leading her to be named Defensive Player of the Year in NESCAC.  Amazing career, Caitlin!!

As a class, these seniors won 2 NESCAC Championships, had a combined record of 91-28 over their four years, had four 20-win seasons, advanced to the NCAA's three straight years, making it to the Regional Finals once, and the semi-finals twice.  They've been awarded the Team Academic Award by both the NEWVA and the AVCA every year, and all four have been Academic All-NESCAC!  I'm not sure we've ever had such a power-packed senior class, so thank you all for all of your efforts, and for all you've given to the MCVB Program!!

Now, for our captains this year:  First, as a junior Captain, MJ did a fantastic job of leading by example with her competitiveness both in practice and in games.  Her no-nonsense determination set a steady example, and she was a quiet force on the court.  She could change the energy with one show-stopping powerful kill that as a freshman would have elicited a look like, "whaaaat???" which now was a "Lets GO!" inspiration to the team.  Thank you, MJ!

Maddie always had the youthful exuberance that probably led to her nickname of "Rookie!"  She would bound on and off the court as middles exchanges with the libero, immediately energizing the floor and bench respectively.  When she stuffed an opposing middle at key times, her reaction inspired the team with confidence and propelled us on to victory!  She was an approachable leader, a good listener, and a good communicator, adding up to be a fabulous captain.  Thank you, Maddie!

Caitlin was the consummate floor leader.  She was always talking, and communicating on the court, and kept the energy alive just like she kept balls alive in the back court.  She's been our anchor on defense for three solid years now, and provided an extremely solid base of leadership on and off the court, and was a wonderful liaison between the players and the coaching staff.  Thank you, Caitlin!

The other people we wanted to recognize were those not in uniform for us, but still a huge part of our Team:  Rachel, Steve and Max!  Rachel keeps the team all patched up, and healthy, and unfortunately, we tend to spend a lot of time down there.  I keep telling them to hang out with Rachel "socially," not "professionally!"  Thank you, Rachel!  Steve keeps our academic lives in tact, and helps smooth out any issues in that arena that sometimes can be a little sticky, not to mention being a great fan along with his family!  Thank you, Steve!  And, Max keeps us organized in practice, and on the road by keeping score, taking stats, tossing balls--she's a jack-of-all-trades on the team, and is a huge help to me, and a wonderful friend and important Teammate!  Thank you, Max!

In addition to all of this, and in many ways one of the most important awards that can be given out at a school like Middlebury is the Academic All-NESCAC award!  Only sophomores and up are eligible for this award, so of our 11 players that were eligible, 8 received this award, which is amazing, and a tribute to the caliber of student-athlete that we have on our Team.  The following were awarded this nice honor:


Way to go, TEAM!!  Thank you all for sharing the season, and the evening.  Good luck with all your work as the last week of classes comes to an end, and good luck on Finals next week!  As the juniors all head abroad, the sophomores will take over the organization of any off-season activities, and my guess is that the seniors will still want to play when possible!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Many Post Season Awards

There was a lot to be proud of this year, and several people earned some very nice post-season honors for their efforts this season.  These four seniors played a huge role all year in many different ways!  Well-done, guys!!

Caitlin Barrett:
1st Team All-Region AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association), AND NEWVA (New England Women's Volleyball Association);  Honorable Mention All-American by the AVCA;  NEWVA Senior Classic participant; 1st Team All-NESCAC; NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Julia Gibbs:
NEWVA (New England Women's Volleyball Association) Senior Classic participant; 2nd Team All-NESCAC.

Megan Jarchow: 
1st Team All-Region AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association), AND NEWVA (New England Women's Volleyball Association);  AVCA Honorable Mention All-American; 1st Team All-NESCAC
Amy Hart:
NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team; 2nd Team All-NESCAC; AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention.

Meg Anderson:  NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team

Monday, November 12, 2012

MIDD Ends Season in NCAA Regional Semifinals

NCAA's!  It's always great to still be playing in November!  By virtue of winning our Conference, we were awarded the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, but we had to wait until Monday when the brackets came out to see where we would be playing, and whom.  Once again, we were put in the NY Regional due to our location and proximity to the North Country host site of Clarkson University.  It was the usual cast of characters with 7 of the same 8 teams that were there last year.  Only SUNY New Paltz was new, replacing Rivier from last season.  We felt good about the bracket pairings in that we would be playing all news teams in our  half of the bracket, and we would only see someone we had faced already this year possibly in the Finals.

We were awarded the #2 seed, while SUNY Cortland had the #1 seed again this year.  Our first match was against the #7 seed Southern Vermont College.  They had a very successful season once again, and won their Conference to earn their way into the NCAA's again.  I thought they would be tough, and they proved to be a very formidable opponent.  In the end, our offense was too much for them, and we emerged as 3-1 victors.  We served well, and despite being a bit "off" on several key skills, we were good enough to pull out the victory.   We knew, however, that we'd need to play better the next day if we wanted to win the next game.

While traveling to Clarkson isn't that bad of a trip for us from Middlebury, our parents really had to work hard to get up there.  We still had a very good faithful following of parents, which was amazing, and they treated us to a buffet dinner after our match Friday night.  Dave and Barbara Gibbs brought Brian and I over to the dinner a little late so we could watch more of the Clarkson/New Paltz game that started at 8pm after our match.  It was a great match, and since we'd play the winner, Brian and I wanted to scout a bit more of that match, and Dave was enjoying watching it so it worked out great.  We put the team (and Lois) on the bus and sent them to the restaurant with the rest of the parents, and then met up with them after we'd watched 3 sets of action.  Clarkson lost the first set and then went on to win the next three, which in hindsight could have been foreshadowing...

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and formulated a plan for the next day.  We didn't play until 6pm on Saturday night, so we had almost all day to try to find something to do.  Now, I love the North Country, but there isn't a whole lot going on up there.  For the most part, the team was happy to sleep in and have time to do homework, so that's what we did all morning.  There was also an Amish buggy parked across the street from our hotel that was selling hand-made baskets of all sizes and shapes, so several of us (me, Lois and some of the moms!) went shopping!  We were all intrigued a bit by the Amish, and even though I grew up in an Amish part of Indiana, I don't see them very often anymore, so it's enjoyable to see that they're still thriving with their way of life in today's hectic world. 

At 2pm we headed out to Potsdam to find some lunch, and a Dunkin Donuts, and then make our way back to the gym.  We parked our bus so we could spread out and leisurely walk through town looking for lunch, we couldn't help but realize the stark contrast to our mode of transportation to the one parked next to us.  The horse wasn't even tied up, and was so docile.  It was amazing.

Once we got to the gym, however, the action was definitely not docile.  We watched as Cortland lost in straight sets to New Paltz for the first upset of the tournament.  Cortland was stunned to say the least, but New Paltz out-played them.  Everyone knows that anything can happen when you get to this point in the season, and to keep playing you have to bring your game every time, and Cortland just didn't have it that day.  It's always a mix of emotions to see a good team lose "prematurely", and to see the "underdog" win the big match.  At the #1v#4, I guess you'd have to describe it that way, even though the teams had split during the regular season. 

We warmed up for our match with Clarkson and looked pretty good to start out.  We won the first set, and our offense looked pretty good, and our serving had forced them into 5 receiving errors, which was good.  We were getting touches on their outside hitters, and despite not passing great, we were able to run our offense enough to take the first set.  In serving tough, however, we also had 8 service errors through the first two sets.  They seemed to get used to our servers, and they started passing our serves pretty well after that first game, whereas we continued to struggle with theirs.  Our receive was just off.  They were serving deep, and nothing we did seemed to help--stepping up to take it with our  hands or moving back--we still seemed to be getting jammed and popping the pass up to the middle of the court, or into or over the net.  We were running Kathryn all over the place, and thus had trouble getting our offense in sync.  They weren't necessarily getting aces, but our passes were not good enough to run our full offensive options.  When we were in system, our offense looked good.  The 2nd and third sets were very close back and forth score-wise until the mid-way point of each game.  In the middle of both sets, Clarkson had a four point run that we just couldn't stop, nor come back from it seemed.  We'd had many games like this during the season, and had fought back to win many of them despite being down a few points late in sets.  However, today the combination of not passing well, added to the fact that our block stopped getting touches on their OH's proved to be a deadly combination for us.  Their two outsides combined for 36 kills to 26 from ours.  Neither team boasted a great hitting % overall, as they were .216 to our .190, but that was below our season average.

Caitlin emerged with a match high 19 digs, and statistically, we were very similar across the board with the exception of kills and assists.  What didn't show up in the stats, however, was overall ball control.  They didn't ace us with their serves that often, but we were not passing 3 balls, or even that many 2 ball options, and that's what hurt us.  Without being able to really attack them, they were able to better keep the pressure on us, and that was key to the game.  I give credit to Clarkson who seemed to execute their game plan a bit better than we did.  Neither team changed up lineups or anything else, and they just out-played us.   They are a very good serving team, and so it wasn't just that our receive didn't show up, but more that we didn't step up our receive to the challenge of their tough serves.

While it's so disappointing in the moment, after the dust settles we all recognize that it was a fabulous season!  We had a lot of great contributions from everyone throughout the season, and once we settled into a lineup that seemed to be gelling mid-way through the season, we really had a fantastic spell of high level volleyball late in the season.  By beating Wellesley and going 5 with Springfield at the Hall of Fame Tournament, I think we built the confidence that we could play with anyone. Then we had our last Conference weekend beating Bowdoin and Tufts at home, and that propelled us into the Conference Tournament on a high note.  Coming from behind to beat Bowdoin in the Semi's and then taking Conn in straight sets to win the Conference Championship was very thrilling.

This was probably the best overall team I've ever coached at MIDD, and I have been fortunate to have coached some great teams.  We had all the pieces, and we had a string of BIG wins, we just didn't get that last one.  Every year we gain confidence and experience, and hopefully our younger players will benefit from this experience, and we hope to be back in the mix again next year.  For now, we'll take some time off, catch up on work for the players, laundry and family time for me, and work and family time for Brian.  Then, after we celebrate our season this year, we'll get started working toward next year.  We had quite a lot of wonderful individual honors as well, but I'll put all of them in a separate blog post very soon.  For our FOUR seniors, however, they have made a lasting impression on both this Team, and this Program,and our banner that hangs in the gym will have TWO years of NESCAC Championships that they were an instrumental part of producing.  THANK YOU, SENIORS!!!  We will certainly miss you all!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

MIDD Wins NESCAC Championship!!

Conn College hosted the NESCAC Championships this year for the first time ever, and they did a very nice job.  On Friday night we played Trinity in the #2 vs. #7 seed match.  Trinity gave us quite a battle in the first set!  We started out a little off, and they were ready to go.  We managed to pull out that first set 26-24, and battled again in the 2nd, but pulled away to win that one 25-22, and finished off the straight set victory with a 25-18 final set to start off our weekend well.  We also had a guest assistant coach on the bench that night in Lauren Barrett.  She was our only Assistant Coach last year at NESCACs when Brian was at his brothers wedding in California, but this year she was just our guest for the one night, but we got started out well, just like last year with a 3-0 victory.  Parents brought us a homemade dinner that we could eat right there at the gym after the match.  This allowed us to watch some of the match after us since we'd play the winner on Saturday.  This was the Bowdoin-Tufts match which Bowdoin won 3-0.

Our parents have as much fun together as we do, I think.  Most of them were staying at our hotel with us, and had their own party that night as the rest of us went to bed to prepare for the next day.

We knew Bowdoin would be very tough, especially after having lost to us the weekend before up at MIDD.  Well, it did prove to be quite a match.  We took the first set 25-21, but they came right back and won the next two, both  by scores of 25-19.  They were in system a lot of those two games, and we were just a bit slow, both with our block and our defense.  We rallied very well, however, and were not going to go down easily, and we fought back to take the crucial 4th set 25-23.  We trailed by a couple points for the first half of that set, but managed to tie it at 14-14.  We had several tied scores there in the middle of the set, neither team taking a lead of more than a point or two.  We took a two point lead at 23-21 only to give up the next two points to see it tied again at 23-23.  We finished off the set with a kill from MJ, and an attack error from their right side, and that bought us the 5th and deciding set.

We've played in several 5 set matches this year, but unfortunately had come out on the short end of most of them.  However, being there was not new to us.  This time, we completely dominated the 5th set.  We jumped out to a 6-1 lead, and were up 8-1 when we switched sides.  They scored three straight to go from 9-1 to 9-4, but we finished out the match with 5 straight points to win the match, and earn our way into the Championship match for the 3rd straight year!

That night we were fortunate to be able to enjoy going to Katie's house to hang out and have pizza and salads, and just relax.  We didn't stay all that long, however, because everyone was pooped, and wanted to get to bed to prepare for the Sunday Finals!  Thank goodness it was Daylight Savings on Saturday night which meant an extra hour of SLEEP!!  The next day we slept in, had breakfast at the hotel, and hung out and did work for a while before we headed out.  I had gone out in the morning with some parents to the grocery store to pick up some lunch items for the team.  We had time to kill, so we set out with our lunch and headed into Mystic.  We had a brief walk around the cute little town, and then ate our lunch outside on the side of the river.  We then had to make our ritualistic stop at Dunkin' Donuts for our iced coffees, which are now turning into more and more hot coffees due to the cold weather, and then headed for the gym again.

Conn beat Williams in the other semi-final match to set up our Championship match with the home team on Sunday.  Conn had a great crowd there all weekend, and the gym was loud and rockin'.  It was a great atmosphere!  We traded points to start out the first set, until we found ourselves in a 3 point deficit mid way through that set at 13-16.  We came back to tie it at 17-17, and then finished out strongly taking the first set 25-20.  The second set was all MIDD.  We got out to an early lead 7-3, and never looked back.  We held leads of 10-5, and 19-11 before closing out the set for a 25-17 win.

The 3rd set was back and forth the whole way.  We jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and had a 7-4 advantage, but after that it was tied at 11-11, and 13-13 until we found ourselves down 13-16 after a 3 point run by Conn.  We came back to tie it again at 16-16, and then traded points again.  MIDD took a brief 2 point lead at 22-20, but Conn came back to tie it at 22-22, and 23-23.  In fitting style Julia and MJ had back to back kills to win the match!  At first sight, it looked like MJ's attack had gone out, but the line judge on our end had his hand on top of the flag signaling a touch, and that was that--match over--NESCAC Championship to MIDD!!! 

We had great parent support all weekend, which was fantastic.  The Conn fans may have been louder on Sunday, but only because they outnumbered our fans!  The parents bought us a cake to celebrate after the Sunday match, and then sent us on the bus with homemade pasta salad and goodies for the ride home.  Thank you parents!!  We appreciate all of the great support!!

On to the NCAA's!!  We'd find out on Monday where we'd be playing and who...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

MIDD Wins Last Two--Takes 2nd Seed for NESCAC's

What a weekend!  We had two of our toughest Conference opponents coming to our gym on the last weekend of the regular season, and thus a lot at stake in terms of Conference Seeding for the Tournament.  AND, we celebrated Senior Day on Saturday!

We played Bowdoin on Friday night, and to start us out on the right note, Piper's mom sang the National Anthem.  Now, I know she's a professional, and I don't know much about music, but when the first note came out of her mouth, (pun intended), I was in awe.  SHE ROCKED THE HOUSE!!  It was absolutely amazing, and set the tone for what was to come.  We jumped out to an early lead 14-2, and never looked back as we totally dominated the first set 25-13.

The second set Bowdoin took an early lead, but we'd tied it at 10-10.  Then they built another lead and got up by as much as 12-17.  We fought back to make it at least respectable, but lost 19-25.  The last two sets were both very close, as both teams were battling back and forth.  Early on it was back and forth with us holding a point or two lead off and on until we took a 5 point lead at 13-8.  Bowdoin then fought back to tie it up at 16, 17, and 18 all.  We then went on a run with Julia serving that put us up 21-18 and would go on to win that set 25-21.

The last set was tight the entire way with 14 tied scores throughout the set with both teams taking turns at going up by a point or two along the way.  They had their first set point of the evening when Maddie got a solo block to tie the score at 24-24.  Amy rotated to the back to serve, and immediately got an ace, and then the next point MJ got a kill to win the match!

We played well, and felt good about the match.  We were having our Senior/Parent's Weekend Dinner after the match, so it was a festive atmosphere, which was great.  And, the home crowd was awesome!  I usually don't even notice the crowd, but I couldn't help but notice it this time, and that was a great atmosphere, especially for the seniors on their last weekend at home!  In addition to a good student fan base, we had a ton of our parents here this weekend, most of whom are in this picture here, thanks to our Team Photographer, Craig Jarchow!  If you haven't checked out his photos, you should definitely do so because they are amazing!!  Click here for Craig's photos!  The parents once again put out a spread of food that was unbelievable.  We had pans of yummy pasta, salads, Halloween goody bags filled with all kinds of fun things.  We also had cupcakes galore, and we even had the special pecan pie from Texas!! It doesn't get much better than all that!  We couldn't really celebrate our win too much, however, because we had another big match the next day with Tufts coming for a 2pm match, but we did enjoy all being together.  Steve came with his whole family to the dinner, and with so many parents, it was very festive.  Even after beating Bowdoin, we still could have ranged anywhere from 1st to 6th seed for the Tournament, which was hard to imagine, but that's how close the NESCAC was this year.

Saturday was the day the seniors had decided they wanted to celebrate Senior Day.  Our Seniors also wanted to start a new tradition this year by honoring the Seniors of our Opponent, so before the match, our seniors gave the Tufts seniors little teddy bears with blue and brown ribbons around their necks.  It was a well-received token of appreciation, and I think a new tradition was born for Senior Day.  (The Amherst Dad who gave us the leis two years in a row is really the inspiration for this gesture, but our seniors mentioned wanting to "pay it forward.")  For the Senior Celebration, our juniors (and underclassmen) decorated the gym on Friday with posters and pictures of the seniors, which was really fun!

With it being our last home match, Julia and Amy got their a capella group, the Mischords to come and sing the National Anthem with them, which was very fun.  Julia is the music coordinator, and leads the group, and they got Nicki to hold the microphone for them (see bottom of picture.)  Another great way to set the tone for our match--nice job, Mischords!  The 1st set was tight the whole way, getting tied up at 18-18.  We took a 22-18 lead after a side out with an ace from Julia and two kills by MJ.  They'd close to 22-20 before we pulled away for the win, and finished the set out with an ace by Lizzie.  The second set saw us get out to an early lead of 6-1 and we never looked back.  We had leads of 14-5, and 19-10.  Julia finished the set with 2 aces to win 25-13.

The last set was again very close early with back and forth scores that were tied at 8-8.  We went up 15-10, and then pulled away to a 21-14 lead, but Tufts wouldn't go away.  They closed to within 4, but couldn't get any closer as we closed out the match 25-20.  With the win, we finished 8-2 in NESCAC, and Tufts fell to 6-4.  8-2 tied us for 1st place with Conn and Bowdoin, but since Conn had beaten both of us head to head, they got the #1 seed, and hosting privileges, while we took the #2 seed by having beaten Bowdoin the night before.  As it all shook out, we will play Trinity as the #7 seed down at Conn next Friday night at 5pm.  Click here for the link to NESCAC.

Now, with the Tropical Storm of the Ages looming, I thought it would be good to get outside and enjoy the nice weather while I could.  I enjoyed some good Fall Fun watching the kids raking the bid leaf pile, jumping in and practically getting buried under all the leaves! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MIDD Goes 2-1 at HOF Tournament

The Hall of Fame Tournament has now become a time to have some great cross-Conference match-ups with some of the best competition in New England.  We played Wellesley, Brandeis, and Springfield.  Both Wellesley and Springfield are in the top 5 in the Regional Rankings for New England.  We were excited to play all three, knowing it would be great competition leading up to our last Conference Weekend, not to mention just plain fun to play some of the best non-Conference teams in our Region!  To start out our trip on a good note, despite the pouring rain, Charlotte came by to give us a travel gift.  She's not quite ready to travel with us again, but in her absence, she left us with a huge box of candy!!  Well, that was a fun surprise!!  Thanks Charlotte!  WE loved the candy, but we'd really like YOU back with us, so hopefully that will happen soon!

On Friday night, we took on the Wellesley Blue.  We knew they'd been #1 in NE for a fair part of the season, but had recently lost to Bowdoin.  We started out the match well, and they never really got going.  We knew they had a potent offense, but they made a lot of errors early on, and we played well and didn't allow them get going at all.  They couldn't seem to do anything to contain our offense, and without their offense going, we led pretty much from start to finish in the first set.  The second set was closer in the end, but we got out to leads of 18-12, and 22-15 before they staged a comeback.  They started to get going, and got a couple of runs together to pull within 2 at 24-22 before Maddie put an end to that with a solo block for set point.  What proved to be the final set was the tightest set of the match, and was evenly contested most of the way. We held slim leads early on, and then after leading 10-9 we went on a run that put us up 17-10.  They came back with small runs to close the gap to 22-16 before scoring 6 straight to tie it at 22 all.  We'd go up by one point two more times before finishing the match on an MJ kill for the 3-0 win!  Julia had 8 kills and only 1 error, and MJ had 11 kills, no errors on 15 swings.  Amy added 10 kills, and Piper added 6.  Kathryn had 11 assists per set, which is fantastic.

It would be an quick turn around as we played at 9am the next morning, so we ordered pizza and salad to be delivered to the bus, and we ate on the way to our hotel.  The next morning we met for breakfast at 6:45am, and still managed to make our beloved detour to Dunkin Donuts for our morning wake up!  Even I needed some caffeine that morning, and I don't always get the caffeine because it can give me the jitters, but it was a welcome sight Saturday morning.  We also had a "guest" on the trip with us as my daughter Lois made the travel squad as we call it in our family.  That had never happened before, but she had the time of her life hanging with the team, and it all worked out well.  This weekend was also Meg's birthday weekend, just like last year at this Tournament.  Meg's parents offered to bring us lunch between matches, so we all got a treat to some great food (much better than when I grocery shop for the team!), and we even had birthday cupcakes for after the final match!

To start the day, we played Brandeis at Mt. Holyoke College.  They play in an even tougher Conference than NESCAC, and so their record isn't that great, but we knew they'd be a good challenge as their record in NE was actually very good.  We controlled the tempo of the match in the first set from start to finish and won 25-19.  The second set was very tight with us trailing by 1-2 points early on.  We were tied at 8-8, and again at 21-21 where we pulled ahead by a point or two and held on to win 25-23.  The last set we got an early lead, only to lose it all.  We were up 12-11 before we pulled ahead for good at 17-11, and went on to win 25-16 for the 3-0 match win.  We then hopped straight on the bus to head over to Smith College for our final match of the day against Springfield College.  Williams had lost to them in 5 just as we were arriving at the gym.

We enjoyed our lunch courtesy of Meg's parents (THANK YOU, Andersons!), and then got to watch some of Bowdoin play MIT before having to get focused on our next game.  We knew that Springfield would be a great match, especially after hearing them go 5 with Williams.  We came out ready to play and had a very tight, back and forth first set that saw us trail for a good part of the first set, but only by a couple of points.  Then we'd tie it up, and then go down by a few points before tying it up again.  We took our final lead that we wouldn't give up at 19-18, and went on to take the first game 25-21.  They would go on to take the next two games, both tightly contested.

The 2nd set we got down by a few early, and trailed the entire set by 2-3 points, and that would be final margin.  The 3rd set was more of the same as we trailed for the entire set and lost 18-25. We fought back to take the 4th set by taking an early lead of our own this time, and never giving it up.  We got up 8-3, only to see them get within 2 at 10-8.  Then again we got up 19-12 before they came back to within 1 at 21-20.  Our receive was struggling a bit, and we brought in Meg to try to settle that, and we hung on to force the 5th set behind some fierce play by Maddie Firestone who came up with a big block with MJ to put us up 23-21.  Kathryn then dumped to put us up 24-21 before Maddie finished the set with a kill.

There was a mass exodus to the bathroom before that 5th set, but it was so hot that everyone was drinking a lot of water, I guess.  The last set was unfortunate for us because we again dug ourselves a hole that we just didn't have time to pull out of in the short final set.  We got down 0-4 early, and then 2-9.  We actually tied it up 10-10 after going on a run of our own, and then got down by 1-2 until they took the final point for the 12-15 win.

It was a great match, and I think we all felt it was very competitive.  We know there are things that we just didn't do all that well, and many things that we did very well, so we'd all welcome another opportunity to play them again, but we know that wouldn't be until the NCAA's if at all.  MJ was honored by being named to the All-Tournament team for her efforts this weekend, which was nice.  Congrats MJ!!  I think she got a long sleeve tee in recognition of that.  They don't do the free uniforms for the winner anymore, since they changed the format, but we enjoyed wearing our free set of jerseys that we'd won at this tournament a few years ago!  All in all, it was a very successful weekend of volleyball, and one that should be very good preparation for our last two regular season matches against Bowdoin and Tufts on Friday and Saturday night at home in Pepin!!  That will conclude the regular season, and then it'll be on to the NESCAC Championships, but we won't know where that'll be held until after all the games this coming weekend.  Very exciting time of the season...

MIDD Takes Plymouth in 3

I'm a bit behind with this entry, but we had our last home mid-week match last Wednesday when we played Plymouth State for the second time this season.  The first time we played them it was our first weekend of play, and we were without our freshmen, so I'd say we looked much different this time around.  In that original match, we beat them in 4 sets, but it didn't take that much this time as we came out and dominated the match from start to finish.  We hit very well on the night as our team hitting % was .307.  MJ, Amy and Piper all hit over .400, which was fantastic.  Kathryn had over 10 assists per game as she's continued to run our offense very well after taking over the reigns full time when Julia was out.  We earned the victory by scores of 25-9, 25-15, 25-19, and several people came off the bench to contribute to the win!  It was a quick match, lasting only just over an hour.  After this, we had a day to prepare for the Hall of Fame Tournament over the weekend featuring some of the best competition in New England.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

MIDD Splits Conference Weekend

Well, we missed the Dalai Lama's talks on campus, which was really too bad, but I did take a picture of Nelson being set up for his visit.  We are able to view his talks on-line through the college website, so not all was lost by missing out on all the activity and aura of his visit.  Click here for more on his visit:

After all, this was a big weekend for us as well--I mean, we left for Conference Matches so His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama could take over the entire Athletic Complex!  We felt like we were playing our part, in a small way.

Despite the fact that it is only the middle of October, it turned out to be the last home matches for Amherst.  I think we were at Amherst last year for Senior Night, too, only we didn't play them because they were our travel partner last year.  They celebrated their four seniors, and one of the senior's family (from Hawaii) brought leis for those seniors--purple and white, of course, for Amherst.  As they did last year, this father brought BLUE and WHITE leis for our seniors!  It completely blew me away last year, and I have to say, it completely blew me away again this year.  He's so mild mannered, and simply says we're celebrating "ALL" seniors, aren't we?!  (The Dalai Lama would have been proud!)  After the match, he approached me with a bag of these leis, and then boxes of chocolates for the rest of the team!  What a wonderful show of generosity and sportsmanship, and just an amazing, gracious thing to do, and we all truly appreciated it.  Thank you, Mr. Keeno!!

As for the match itself, Amherst came out strong in the first two sets, and really took control of the tempo early on.  I felt that we were not really in sync.  We just looked a little "off" and not totally smooth, nor really playing together completely, and we always seemed to be just a couple points behind, playing catch up.  We seemed hesitant, and unsure somehow and had trouble putting a string of good plays together.  Anyway, we lost the first set 21-25, and despite switching things up in the second set, we still lost the second set 19-25, but we actually started to look a little more together.  The next set belonged completely to us.  We dominated from start to finish, and only allowed them to score 13 points.  That's what we were looking for!  We continued to play well, and be the aggressors for a while in the 4th, but they battled and hung in there and made it very close in the 20's, but we pulled away for the 25-22 win.  AND, on to a 5th and decisive set!

We felt good going in to the last set.  Our receive had settled down, and we were being aggressive and forcing them to play good defense, and it all started out well right up to our 3-1 lead.  Then they went on a tear that we just couldn't answer.  A couple of aces, and some bad passes that resulted in poor hits that they then hammered back at us, and suddenly we were on our heels again, and scrambling to catch our breath, and shortly after a time-out, which resulted in them scoring the next few points unanswered, we switched sides at a deficit of 3-8.  It would go on to be 4-9 before taking our last timeout hoping to stop the bleeding, so to speak.  I think the damage got to 5-13 (which in a 5th is never good!).  However, we then staged an almost miraculous comeback!  We got four points with Stud serving, and then a missed serve put them at 14.  We battled back to 12-14 before a long rally ended with what looked like was going to be a free-ball to us that just ticked the net and trickled over for the last point, and the dagger in our hearts as our rally came up short!  It was actually a great match to watch (or so the fans thought!).  It was exciting as both teams had great runs, and some really good rallies.  I think we felt that they played well, and out-played us just enough to win, but all in all, it was a very close match that could have gone either way.  Both sides had their share of errors, and great shots.

As a team we hit .255, which has been a goal achieved for us.  We had 3 solo blocks, and 4 BA, but they held an important edge there with 18 BA.  We did have some phenomenal stat lines, however.  Julia's all around stats were amazing with 11/1/25 hitting stats for a .400 hitting % to go along with 21 assists, and 15 digs.  She's started out setting a 6-2 with Kathryn, but we switched to a 5-1 early in the 2nd set.  MJ hit .412 with 17 kills and only 3 errors on 34 swings, and Amy contributed 14 kills and 20 digs with a hitting % of .256.  Kathryn steadied our offense and ended up with 26 assists and 5 kills of her own.  Caitlin had a match high 25 digs, and Stud added 12 digs to round out our defense.

It was a tough match to lose, but we may get to see them again later, and I think we'd all like another chance to play them!  We had a late ride to our hotel, and an even later "dinner," if you can call it that at 11:30pm!  Fortunately, parents came through for us yet again with dinner provided by Caitlin's mom, all ready and placed on the bus waiting for us after the match.  And, some additional fruit came in the morning to supplement our "Free Continental Breakfast" at our hotel thanks to Lizzy's parents.  What a welcome treat!  Thanks Parents!

On to Trinity the next day, which was actually really fun because ALL our other teams were there playing Trinity as well, except for football.  We pulled up behind the men's soccer/women's field hockey bus, and the women's soccer bus pulled up right behind us.  We literally walked into the building flanked by all MIDD athletes!  We took a short walk around the campus in the beautiful weather before heading back inside to prepare for our match.

Fortunately, we dominated Trinity from the start!  They have a potent offense and we didn't want to let them get going early, and we shut them down nicely.  We served them tough, and kept them out of what they were trying to run, and that worked out very well for us.  We took the first game 25-11, and they really never got anything going in that first set.  We jumped out to another early lead in the second set, but they hung in there for a bit, but still found themselves behind 18-12 before making a comeback.  They would fight to get within one point at 21-20 but couldn't muster to get any closer and we pulled out to 24-21 lead before trading points to finish off the set.  The last set was more tightly contested the whole time, with us hanging on to a slim lead most of the way.  They were within 2 at 19-17, and then Maddie got a handle on their go-to middle, and had a couple of late blocks along with Amy to shut her down right when we needed them!  Those two combined for our last five points, both blocking and hitting.  We felt good about our consistency in the match, and it was a nice way to start off our Fall Break.

Over half the team was heading elsewhere with parents and friends after the match since there are no classes on Monday and Tuesday.  We're having late practice on Monday to allow them to travel back to campus during the day on Monday, so there were only 6 players left on the bus!  We stopped at Chipotle for dinner, which was awesome, and then watched a couple of good movies on the way home:  Finding Neverland, and The Illusionist.  Very nice.  Kathryn and Stud had to talk me through how to order at Chipotle, but their advice was wonderful.  What a great place!  The ones who were left, however, had to haul all of the stuff back into the building.  We took this picture of them schlepping all the stuff.  :)

We play at home this week on Wednesday night against Plymouth State, and then head to the Hall of Fame Tournament next weekend to play Wellesley, Brandeis, and Springfield, which should all be very good matches.  It's game time, and that oh so fun part of the season where you just keep playing good teams at every turn!  GO MIDD!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

MIDD Ends Skidmore's Win Streak

The rain finally ended, and the sun came out, and we had a gorgeous drive over to Skidmore on Tuesday afternoon.  Once again we had a car with a couple of players who needed to stay later for class, but once again, they made it in time for warm ups, or maybe 5 minutes late or so.  Skidmore was celebrating DIG PINK for breast cancer awareness month (October), so we played with pink game balls, which was a nice way to help raise awareness of this important disease that affects so many women.

On to the match.  We came out very strong, and served them pretty tough all night, and came away with a 3-0 win 25-21, 25-20, 25-21).  Each game was pretty close, despite a couple of larger leads that we'd built, and then let dribble away.  I think we may have been up 18-12 in the 2nd before getting to 21-19, and then pulling away for the set win.  We showed some good, scrappy play, and tough serving to go with our offense for the night.  They had one player who we couldn't seem to contain, but other than that, we felt very good about our match.  We had a good hitting night with a % of .250, which is better than we've had recently, so that was nice.  Most of our offense came from MJ, Amy and Olivia, all having double digit kills.  We did out block them 10-4, but the big difference was we had 10 aces to just 1 for them. Our receive was pretty solid, and so was our defense, led by Caitlin with a match high 21 digs.  Kathryn continued to run a very smart offense, and our bench played a great role as well helping to steady our receive when we needed it.  

Julia was still out, but should be back for this weekend's Conference matches, when we head to Amherst on Friday night, and on to Trinity on Saturday.  GO MIDD!!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Whit '10.5 Visits, and Other Fall Fun

We had a surprise visit from Whitney Bean on Friday before we left for Hamilton.  Her youngest brother Tom was here doing his official visit with the soccer team, and she and her parents came up to enjoy the weekend also!  What a great surprise it was to see Whitney just appear at my office door!  And, of course, she showed the girls her "rock" since they'd recently found out she was engaged!  Maybe we'll get the last of the Bean clan to come to MIDD and keep it all in the family!   I'm sure they all enjoyed seeing our Football team absolutely rout Amherst after all the years when Jared played football and Amherst was unbeatable.  GO MIDD!

And, FALL is upon us, and what a gorgeous one it is so far.  If the sun would ever stay out long enough to enjoy the beauty, it could be one of the best in years?!  I took this picture out behind the field house while the sun was actually out between all the rain we've been having.  As I'm writing this, I can hear the rain on the roof yet again.

Last week, I had another surprise, but it was in our chicken shed.  THE FIRST EGG!  I've been checking the nesting boxes for the past couple of weeks thinking, "any day now."  And, there it was, a little egg!  Here's Maxwell showing off the egg!

 A couple of weeks ago now, when we had our home stand against Williams on a Wednesday night, and then Colby and Bates over the weekend, I actually got out and played some golf with Dave Gibbs and Tim Barrett, and my husband.   I hadn't been out on our course here since last Spring when Jane and Elissa and I went out with the softball coach and one of her seniors during senior week.  It's a "lifetime" sport, and one which I encourage all my athletes to pick up.  Eventually, you'll want to know how to play, and it's almost always easier to learn when you're younger.  That's what I believe, so that's what I tell them.  In college, you can take a PE class and learn how to play for free! 

Anyway, what fun we had that day, however, even in the light drizzle!  We also got in a game of 3v3 on the basketball court, but I didn't get pictures of that--no one needs to see the three of us all sweaty!  All I will say is, our VB dad's still got GAME!  There was some talk of doing another sport to complete our "triathlon," but we didn't get quite that far.  We still have another home weekend, though, so who knows...

MIDD Downs Hamilton, Loses to #12 Cortland

Heading to Hamilton, we knew we had two tasks at hand.  We needed to secure one more Conference win by beating Hamilton, and we also wanted to test our squad against a Nationally ranked opponent.  To top it off, SUNY Cortland was the team that ended our season last year, and headed on to the Elite 8 after winning the NY Regional.  Despite a rainy ride over on Friday night, Saturday turned out to be quite nice, even though we were inside all day.

First things first, however, and that was Hamilton.  We felt good going in to the match, despite still playing without Julia.  Kathryn has stepped into running the 5-1 with ease, and our offense has responded really well.  We hit .347 as a team against Hamilton, and were led by Olivia with 11, Amy with 10, and Piper with 9 kills.  Piper had NO hitting errors, and Olivia only had 1.  It was a nice team win, and we had good contributions from Lauren, Meg and Lizzy, in addition to the other starters. 

After a wonderful lunch provided by Stud's mom and dad, we regrouped to play again at 2pm against Cortland.  Even though we knew that Cortland would be a good match, I feel like we maybe didn't believe that we could beat them from the start.  They are a big blocking team, and they have a very balanced attack, similar to us.  We seemed to come out a little tentative, and we didn't quite find our rhythm until the 3rd game, and by that time, it was a little bit too late.  We tried our hardest to extend the match and work our way back into it by taking a game, but we just couldn't quite seem to pull it out. 

We trailed most of the first two sets, but the 3rd set was very much back and forth most of the way.  We saw our hitting % drop to .075, and we were out blocked 14-9 for the match.  The last game was where the action was, at least for us.  The most anyone led the entire set was when they got out to an 0-3 lead.  We had a brief lead of 11-9, but mostly it was either tied, or we were up or down a point.  We got down 22-24, and made a comeback to tie it at 24, but would then we would both have our opportunities to win the set, but neither team could get ahead by the necessary two points until they finally got us at 35-33.

In that last game, however, both Piper and Maddie has started to figure out their middles, and both had their best hitting set with 4-1-8 stats for Piper, and 3-1-11 for Maddie.  I think we learned a lot about ourselves, and that will be good moving forward.  It was a great match overall, and was a very fun third set for sure!  We've had only one other set quite like that, and that was against MIT last year at the Hall of Fame Tournament. 

Since we have a contingent from mid-state NY, both Lizzy's parents and Stud's parents were taking good care of us with regard to food!  We had food in between games, and then for the ride home, we had platters of pasta, salads, fruit, snacks, oh, and those famous parfaits by Stud's mom!!  And, lemon bars, which I think Maddie had hoped for (or maybe even asked for?!)  So good!!  Of course, I took pictures of the food.  :)

We have a full schedule coming up, so I think it was a good weekend to really get tested, and see where we are, and what we have to focus on at this point in the season.  We're traveling to Skidmore on Tuesday, and then on to Amherst and Trinity over the weekend for two more Conference matches.  It's getting to the really exciting part of the season where everything starts to come together, and we're all looking forward to putting our game out there on the line, and seeing what we can do, improving one day at a time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

MIDD Downs Colby-Sawyer in 3

It was a dark, and stormy night...oh, wrong beginning.  That's just from my childhood days of reading Snoopy.  It was a dreary afternoon though.  It was rainy, cloudy, and foggy, but it somehow still managed to be gorgeous over the Middlebury Gap!  Breadloaf was exploding with color.  However, when we got over to New London, NH, we were buried in a fog bank.  Stud was driving her own car with Lizzy and Piper, who all had late class, so between that, and Nicki and Charlotte still being out, we counted up before we left and had everyone we were supposed to have at 10 people!  At least we got to spread out in the vans.

Once we got over there, our breathing exercise was a very tight group with only the 10 players, and it seemed odd to have such a small group.  Very shortly after that, however, our other three walked in, which was great.  We got started off in a typical way when we play  over there.  I'd warned the team that every year we go over there, we end up in a long, 5 game battle, so be prepared.  Nicki didn't travel with us because she's still getting over her illness, and Julia was out with an injury from practice the day before, but we felt good going in because of our team depth, as we've said all year will be a major strength.  The first game went to extra points, back and forth with each team having their chances up a set point.  We finally prevailed by a score of 30-28.  MJ was our hot hitter with 7 kills in that first set and only 1 error. 

The second set started out the same, trading points.  By the middle of the set, we started to pull away and built a lead of 15-10, and then 22-11 behind strong serving runs by both Amy and Caitlin.  They had a brief run of their own, but we closed out the set 25-17. 

The third set saw us get off to an early lead of 8-4, only to see the game tied at 16-16.  Maddie ate up her opposing middle getting 3 kills on 5 swings, and still MJ was still on fire getting 3 kills on 4 swings.  It wasn't a big blocking game for us, but both Piper and Amy came up with solo blocks at key times, which was great.  Kathryn was setting a 5-1 tonight in Julia's absence, and Meg was came in back row for Olivia and provided some very steady serve receive.  We outscored them 9-3 down the stretch to take the final set 25-19, and end the match in 3 straight sets.  We were very happy to get out of there in three straight.

The surprise of the night came when we actually had fans--well, two anyway!  Caitlin's mom and sister Molly showed up to cheer us on....AND bring us sandwiches so we could eat quickly and head home.  THANK YOU!!  It's been a busy week for work, and many people are still getting over colds etc. so getting on the road and heading home quickly was wanted by all of us. 

Today, the busy work schedule continued, and a couple people couldn't come at all to practice, and Julia still couldn't practice, and lots of people had a ton of work, so I just gave them the day off.  We'll all hopefully have time to catch up on work, sleep, and whatever else needs catching up on so we're ready to go this weekend.  Next week will be another busy week, so we're hoping to catch our breath right here, and then power through!  Tomorrow night we head over to Hamilton to spend the night before taking the court with them on Saturday morning.  Saturday afternoon we'll face off with SUNY Cortland in a rematch from the NCAA Regional Final from last year, so this will be a fun weekend with a tough Conference foe, and a tough out of Conference foe.  Cortland is currently ranked 12th in the most recent Division III National Rankings.