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!!

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