Sunday, September 16, 2012

MIDD Splits 1st Conference Weekend

This was our first road trip with our full team, since we had to leave the freshmen behind our first weekend, so that was fun for us all.  The trip started off on a good note when we met Ernesto (one of our favorite bus drivers!) in the parking lot!  Ernesto was with us for NESCAC's last year, and he's so much fun.  On the way, we stopped at Panera to get a pre-game dinner for the ride down, and we had hoped to arrive early enough to walk around a little before having to get ready for the game, but some traffic slowed us up a bit, but we didn't have to rush, which was good.  It's always nice to stretch your legs and get some fresh air if time allows on road trips. 

We started our first NESCAC weekend with a tough serving team in Wesleyan, and each game was decided by 2 points, two of which went to extra points!  We displayed some mental toughness not only in overcoming deficits and pulling out very tight games, but in not letting the crowd get to us either.  They had a good fan base, and they were yelling all kinds of things when we went back to serve, but everyone showed a lot of poise to not letting it get to them.  A loud gym is a great venue in which to play, however, so despite some of the things being yelled, it was a good atmosphere for a match. We had quite a following of our own as our parent group was quite large!  Thanks parents!

We showed some early season grit by managing to pull out all three games.  We built leads and blew them, and also overcame quite a deficit to rally ahead for the win.   The first game was very tight early on, but we went on a run of 6-7 points, and looked like we might win decisively before they went on their own run to tie it up.  We traded a few points then before we finally scored the last two points on an ace by Julia and a kill by Meg to win 27-25.  We raced ahead 20-13 in game 2 only to see them pull to within 1 pt at 24-23 before we scored again to win that game by two points. Down 17-11 in the 3rd game, we inched back to tie it at 23-23.  We then traded points several times before pulling ahead for the win with the final two points by Amy with a kill followed by an ace for the 29-27 win.  That was a great way to start our weekend.  We weren't in tip top form, but Meg Anderson and Amy Hart led our offense with 10 kills apiece, while Piper led with 4 blocks, and Caitlin had 14 digs.  Both Amy and Julia served very well for us, getting 4, and 6 aces respectively.  Sarah Studwell played great defense and was very solid on serve receive as well.  That, combined with Maddie's solid hitting and blocking, and I'd say our four seniors had a very good opening Conference Match!

We had a very nice, although somewhat noisy stay at the Courtyard Marriott, where unfortunately there were TWO weddings staying there with us.  There was a Price-Rite across the street, however, so we enjoyed a "grocery store breakfast" the next morning after getting to sleep in, which was a nice luxury.  We then traveled on to Connecticut College to face the Camels who had lost the previous night to Williams 1-3.  The gym was loud, and dusty as it usually is, but what a match we had in there.

We once again had a very tight first game, which we pulled out in extra points, and it seemed as though every NESCAC game we played this year was destined to be decided by 2 points.  In the second game we looked like we'd found our groove by pulling out to a 19-11 lead before seeing that lead slip away, and this time, we ended up losing by two points behind a string of hitting and receiving errors.  Not to take anything away from Conn, who I think played very well.  They served very tough, and had a very balanced offensive attack, which was quite a switch after losing their go-to hitter to graduation last year. 

The third and fourth games were more decisive with Conn winning the 3rd by 7 points, and us winning the 4th by 6 points to force a 5th set.  There was no lead more than 2 points in that final game, as both teams just traded points and neither could get a run going.  Our receive struggled again, despite rearranging our lineup a few times, and match point was won on a service ace by them.  It's very tough to lose that way, but as long as we make sure to learn from this, and move forward, we hopefully won't have this loss haunt us.  I think the parity in Conference this year will be even tighter than it has been the last few years.  Everyone is good enough that they'll force you into some mistakes, so you have to try to minimize your own mistakes, and capitalize on those of your opponents, which is what we'll work on moving forward. 

Amy and MJ had big hitting nights for us with 18 and 17 kills, but we had very solid contributions from many others as well.  Piper, Meg and Olivia each had around 7 kills, and Piper and Maddie had 5 and 4 blocks.  We didn't get as many aces as we have been getting with our serves, and I think that was mostly due to their new libero, who we seemed to be serving to quite a bit.  Julia had over 50 assists and Caitlin had over 30 digs for very strong games.  Lauren Alper made her debut in action coming in to serve for Piper, and she did a nice job with that role, so that was good to see.

We have all week to rejuvenate and prepare before heading back down to CT to the US Coast Guard Academy next weekend to face a very good USCGA team and two other teams in a tournament.  We'll look forward to some good practice time leading into that, but it'll be nice to get back on the court in uniform as well and see what progress we can make as a team every time we step onto the court.

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