Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MIDD Goes 2-1 at Competitive Hall of Fame Tournament

After a disappointing Conference stretch, we were ready to take on some good non-Conference competition at the Hall of Fame Tournament.  The committee that schedules that tournament always waits until a week before to announce the match schedule to try to pair up appropriate non-conference match-ups that haven't occurred yet during the season.  In the past, we've gone up against some of the top non-NESCAC teams in New England, and this year was no different. We were matched up with MIT on Friday night, Amherst (sometimes it just works out that you have to play someone in your own Conference, and it just happened to be us this year), and Springfield, all of whom are ranked in the top 8 in New England. Plus, at the HOF tournament we always celebrate Meg's birthday, which is fun!

In our opening match on Friday night, we played MIT very tough in the first set, and even extended to extra points but couldn't quite come up with the win, and lost 26-28.  The good news was that it was a very competitive set.  The second set, we dominated despite it being close early on.  After being tied 4-4, we went up 15-11, and then went on a 7-0 run before they scored again, and then scored the next 3 to close out the second set 25-12.  The third set was closer, but late in the match we pulled ahead for a couple point lead and kept it to close it out 25-21.  The fourth set was a doozy.  We were down early by a few points, and then up in the middle of the match by as many as 5 at 16-11, only to see it tied again at 17-17.  We would then trade points, and eventually got down 20-24 with them serving for set point. Two kills by Amy, one by Melanie, and an ace by Katie and we closed the gap to 24-24.  MIT had an error, and then a kill by Olivia and the match was over!  That was quite a finish.  We had some great points and rallies in that span, but we just kept fighting, and were keeping balls in play, and we came up with some big plays at key moments. Defensively, there were many great plays to keep those rallies alive also, which was great to see.  It was a wonderful team win all the way around.

We headed to the hotel feeling good about both the win, and our level of play.  After eating a cooler dinner, which means that I brought groceries with us to make a dinner (aka. sandwiches and veggies), we figured out that we would need to meet for breakfast at 6:25 am the next day in order to get breakfast, stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and still get to the gym by 7:15 to get people in the training room in time to warm up at 8am.  9am match times are something from the past, but for whatever reason, that was the start time for this weekend if you drew the early match, which we did apparently.

No worries, Dunks in hand, we arrived at the gym first, and started getting settled for our first match.  Amherst is another team that notoriously arrives early, so we were the first two teams there for either court, and several kids from both teams were off doing homework or whatever before needing to get ready to warm up.  Even though we'd rather not play a NESCAC school at this tournament, we were all kind of excited to play Amherst again.  We just felt like we didn't give them our best when we'd played them at home two weeks before.

It was a great match, start to finish.  We won the first, third, and fifth sets for the match win!  It was very competitive both ways, and our loss 18-25 in the second set was the largest margin.  The other sets were 25-21 in the first, 30-28 in the third, 22-25 in the 4th, and 15-11 in the 5th.  Even though it doesn't count toward the Conference standings, we all felt good about getting that victory, especially after beating MIT the night before, both of whom are top-ranked teams in New England.

Another funny scheduling thing that happens at this tournament is that some teams have to actually switch sites in the middle of the tournament, and we were one of those teams.  After playing Amherst at 9am, we loaded on the bus with lunch provided by the Andersons--which was awesome!!  Thank you so much for that lovely spread!!  We ate en route to Smith, which took almost a half hour and arrived in time to see Trinity up 2-0 already on our court.  That meant that we'd likely stay close to schedule and start our last match close to 1pm, which we did.  We needed to digest lunch, and then get warmed up again, and loosened up after the long Amherst match, followed by sitting on a bus. 

Springfield proved to be a very tough team, and I don't want to make excuses at all, but we seemed to be having some "issues" before that game.  Some were tight with not quite as much time to get warmed up again, others weren't feeling well with upset stomachs.  It was interesting to say the least.  As the team was warming up before our "official" warm up, Melanie left not feeling well.  Without Piper, we are down to only two middles, so when we were finishing up our last couple minutes of our official warm-up, and meeting before the match started, I pulled Charlotte aside and started explaining how she might have to play middle if Melanie didn't show back up.  Lizzy had to leave after the 2nd set and couldn't return, so Lauren stepped in to play libero, but we got our subbing for the middles mixed up, and Lauren and Katie switched which middle they were serving for, which is, of course, illegal.  No one figured it out until late in the match, at which point, they just called us out of rotation for that one point, but it was a sign of what type of match it had been. 

Despite this type of disorganization, we were somehow miraculously still in the match for most of first and second sets falling 21-25, and 19-25.  The last set we were not quite as competitive, losing 15-25.  I give them credit as they have some very tough hitters, and spread out between an OH,  a couple of different RH's, and one very good MH, but I think we'd all love another chance to play them again when that's the only match of the day.

The Anderson's brought cupcakes for Meg's birthday, which was fun!  And, the senior moms put together goodie bags for all of the girls, and even gave Brian and I one too!  The girls all had fun discovering all the fun things included in the bags, which was a lot of fun, and so did my kids!  And, to top it all off, it was Homecoming at home, and the football team beat Trinity, who was previously unbeaten in the final minutes of the game, so it was an excited bus-ride home.

Now we have all week to prepare for our last two Conference matches.  Our destiny is in our own hands.  If we win one, we should be in the tournament for sure, and if we win two, we could be seeded anywhere from 6-8, depending on who else wins/loses.  If there are major upsets, then the whole scene could change, but that's what I think is most likely to be the case.

Monday, instead of going in the pool for an alternative, and light workout, we decided to have Kathryn lead the team in a Yoga class to get a good stretch, and recoup without getting in the cold pool and therefore, hopefully staying a little healthier in the process.  Now that the weather outside has turned toward winter with snow-capped peaks in the distance, it's even more important to be taking care of our health as we enter the last push of the regular season into the Conference Tournament.  GO MIDD!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

MIDD Drops Close NESCAC Road Matches

We traveled down to Conn College on Friday night to take on the Camels.  The first game started out fairly well as we edged out to a lead of as many as 8 points at 18-12, but would see that lead slip away half on our errors, and half on their good hits.  Tied at 18-18, we scored the next two points to again take a small lead, but Conn tied the score again at 21 all.  Tied 23-23, we ended that set on an attack error, and a receiving error.

The second set we came charging back, took control from the start, and never looked back to win 25-12.  We seemed to be back on track, however, that was somewhat short lived as we managed to lose both of the next two sets despite being very close right up to about 20 points.  It was a pretty ugly game altogether, actually, as neither team mustered a good hitting %, and both teams were plagued by unforced errors.  MJ and Amy were again our kill leaders, but Gabi came through with the highest hitting % at .571 with 4 kills, no errors on only 7 swings.  There were very few blocks in the game on either side, and both teams combined for 21 service errors, and 20 receiving errors, split almost evenly between the two sides.

As always happens, the day eventually ends, and a new one greets us the next morning, full of new hope and inspiration.  We set out for Tufts early, expecting a lot of traffic due to the Head of the Charles, and ended up arriving even earlier than we normally do.  No worries, we had a short team meeting to help make sure we have the big picture in mind, and to refocus our energies, and remind us why we play this game, and how much fun we all have together.  Anyway, it was a gorgeous Fall morning, and some of us watched the Tufts baseball team playing pickup, and part of a Quidditch match starting up, so it was nice to get some nice outside time before heading in for our match.

The energy on the court seemed alive today, and we were determined to find our fight!  And, fight we did.  We pulled out a very tight first set 26-24.  No one held a lead of more than 3 points the whole set, and it was great to see us fight right to the end.  The second set we got behind early, and while we fought to get back into it, they pulled away with a 5-0 run to end the set 25-15.  The third set was again very close to start out, and with us up 13-10, we traded points to 17-14 and then we rattled off 6 straight points to go up 23-14, and then finished the set on two attack errors by Tufts.

Now, up 2-1, the 4th set was a great battle.  Tufts got ahead by a few points early, and then we'd come back.  They did it again after being tied at 9-9 to go up 14-18 on us.  Again, we fought back into it to tie it up at 19.  We traded points, being down a set point here, and up a match point once that we couldn't quite convert, and they managed to pull out the tight win 25-27 to force a fifth set.  We got off on the wrong foot in the fifth with some errors and poor passing to go down 0-3, but managed to get it back and tie it at 4-4.  Unfortunately, that's where our scoring stalled as they went on a 10-0 run to take a gargantuan lead 14-4.  Two time-outs, a side change at 8-4, and we just couldn't manage to get the sideout.  We had some great swings that just went wide, a couple of good blocks that we just reached a bit for and got tooled etc.  We managed to get two points before a service error ended the match, and our hopes of the upset. We were plagued by errors of all kinds a bit in the last set as we had a few receiving errors, some blocking errors, hitting errors, and service errors.  That's a few too many errors to overcome, I'm afraid.

The good news was the fight was back in us, so we'll get back to work next week on the physical errors, and keep pushing ahead!  We did have several fans in the house, which was very fun.  We had our senior parents there--all 6 of them, actually, plus Meg's grandparent, which was fun.  The Jarchows, the Harts, and the Andersons have been great supporters of ours for so long now, and we thank them for traveling all the time to see us, and support us.  I think Katie's dad was there also, or at least at Conn when he brought us cupcakes!  I hope I didn't leave anyone out because I didn't get a chance to talk with everyone.

The Barretts were back in the stands, and recent grad Caitlin '12 came to sit on the bench and help cheer/support us, while sister Lauren '10 was in the stands with her parents Tim and  Lisa.  It was great to catch up with them, and we even had a bus delivery for old times sake!  Yes, sandwiches for all, AND carmelitas!!  Oh la la.    Katie Kenny Enslin '03 was also there with her husband, two adorable children and both of her parents (who are some of our biggest fans in the Boston area.)  Katie commented on how good the team looked, and how rewarding, but tiring being a parent of two small children can be!  Amen to that one.  Thank goodness mine are getting older!  :)

After the match, the juniors stayed behind to go cheer for our crew team at the Head of the Charles race this weekend, and Lauren and Meg stayed behind to go home/see friends in the area.  We are off of school on Monday and Tuesday, so at least they'll have some time to get caught up on work, and sleep, and hopefully have some extra free time to just enjoy doing whatever!!  We'll get back to work together on Monday and Tuesday before heading over to Plymouth State on Wednesday and then to the Hall of Fame next weekend.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great Turnout for Fall Family Weekend!

How about this group?  What a gorgeous weekend we had for Fall Family Weekend this year.  I think everyone on the team had at least one parent here, and most had both, plus several siblings also, which was great fun!  All of Brian's family made it, most of mine, Steve and at least two of his girls were there, and the crowd on hand in general was pretty good, especially when we gave them something to cheer about!!  Unfortunately, the volleyball itself was not quite the celebration we'd hoped this year as we faced two very tough opponents in Amherst and Williams.

Amherst was our first opponent on Friday night, and they came out firing on all cylinders, it seemed, and we were just a bit slow out of the gates.  We had trouble getting our offense going, and were thus on the defensive all night, and without good opportunities to pressure them back.  By the third game, however, we seemed to be getting something going as we jumped out to an 8-0 lead.  They would fight back into it, and then we stayed within two points of each other, sometimes us up, sometimes them until we were tied at 20-20.  Amherst then finished out the set on 5 straight points.  I think we were a little amped up with it being Parents Weekend and all, or still trying to adjust to playing without Piper, and Olivia was still coming off the flu, but at any rate, we at least played again right away the next afternoon to get right back up on the horse, so to speak.

Saturday afternoon, we faced the only previously unbeaten team in NESCAC in Williams, and they proved to be a very tough opponent indeed.  The first set we were horribly shocked, I think as we only scored 12 points.  We hung in there for a while in the second set, but they had strings of multiple points in a row when we were only getting one or two, it seemed, to keep us constantly trailing and playing catch-up, and we just couldn't muster a counter attack to get back in it.  The final game was competitive as well, with some great rallies, long rallies, and scrappy play on both sides of the net, but again, we seemed to come out on the short end of the stick as the second purple team blanked us in as many days. 

Some highlights of the weekend, however, were of course, all the families there to cheer us on!  In addition to the families, we had a guest coach on our bench in Sarah Studwell '13, and Nicki '13.5 was in the stands to cheer us on, in addition to the Beans--minus Whit '10, who apparently was studying for Grad School finals.  Not only did she miss seeing us, but also missed her little brother who's staring on the men's soccer team this year as a freshman, and they had a great weekend winning two games, putting them in second place NESCAC right now.

MJ and Amy led the team in kills with 11, and 10 respectively on Friday night, however, our team hitting % was much lower than our goal of .200, so we're working on that!  Additionally, Lizzy made her debut at playing libero on Saturday, Olivia had a stellar hitting % against Williams hitting .400, Amy again led the team in kills with 12 on Saturday, and Gabi and Kathryn led the team with two blocks each on Saturday.  We actually held a slight advantage over Williams in the blocking category, which was great to see. 

The whole team (I think?!) went out to Flatbread for dinner on Saturday, which had to be a lot of fun.  I went home and just hung out with my family for a little down-time since we'll be on the road for the next two weekends.

I'm not sure what everyone had planned for Sunday, but I took my two youngest kids for a hike since it was so gorgeous!   Fall in VT is surely beautiful, and we were very happy for all the families that traveled here this weekend that Fall Family Weekend turned out so beautiful!

Now, we'll have all week to prepare for Conn and Tufts with no mid-week matches, which will be nice.  Then, the following week is Oct. Break, and then we're off to Hall of Fame before having our last NESCAC home stand of the season on Nov. 1-2.  Wow, how time flies, it seems!  We're hoping to regroup a bit this week to be ready to get back in a groove next weekend.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Catching Up on Last Week, and Heading into Fall Family Weekend

We had a busy weekend last week, and I've been slow to catch up.  We dropped our first match of the season, and first Conference match to a feisty Wesleyan team down there last Friday night.  We came out a little flat, and traded points with them for a good part of the first set, which we had done several games already this year, but instead of finishing strong, and pulling through, we just couldn't quite muster the offense we needed at the crucial times, in large part due to our lack of defense.  The second set we basically served them off the court, and completely dominated the set, but went back to our wayward ways for the next two sets.  We dug ourselves holes, and then tried to climb out, or built a small lead, only to see it evaporate away.  We've moved on...

The next day we took on Trinity, and controlled the tempo more how we wanted, and came away with a three set victory, and seemed to have bounced back to our stride.  We added another match to that Conference Weekend, so we played Keene State right after Trinity, and changing gears seemed a little difficult for us as we dropped the first set to them before coming back strongly to win the next three sets for a 2-0 day Saturday.

MJ was named Co-Player of the Week for NESCAC for her efforts over the week which included stats such as averaging 5 kills/set, 2.14 digs/set, and hitting .365 for the week.

Last night we took on Skidmore here in Pepin, and handled them quickly and efficiently for the first two sets.  We seemed to take a mental break, or we had a slight let-down in intensity, and as our defense faltered a bit, our offense seemed to leave, and we ended up dropping the third set to them.  We bounced back in the last set to dominate again, but not quite as emphatically as we had in the first two sets after Piper had to sit down with an injury.  Olivia was already out with the flu, but Hannah had stepped in nicely to play that role, and then Gabi stepped up to play in Piper's rotation.  We've talked since the first day of practice about our team depth, and how important that is, not just for competitive practices, but in case the need arises to use that depth.  We'll face that challenge now head on as we take on Amherst and Williams at home this weekend!

It's Fall Family Weekend, and I think every single player has at least one parent coming, and several have multiple family members coming, so it should be a very exciting weekend!  We're anxious to take on these two Conference rivals, and happy to be home to do so.  We should really see where we stand this weekend, and we're looking forward to the fun of the challenge!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vermont Fall...

I just thought I'd share some recent photos from this Fall.  Fall is such a gorgeous time here, and it's been a spectacular one so far. 

These aren't artistic photographs, but are scenes from pre-season through now, and the real colors are yet to come!  Most are from near campus, but there are a couple from the top of Snake Mountain, a couple from the golf course, a couple from out by my house, some fly-fishermen in Otter Creek right downtown, and a couple of the last ones are from Fort Ticonderoga when they did a Revolutionary War Re-enactment a couple weekends ago.  Happy Fall!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mid-week Antics at Plattsburgh

Last night was our first mid-week away match, and traveling to Plattsburgh up the Northway was a gorgeous ride.  The sun was shining, the leaves were turning, and the Lake was beautiful.  We discovered on the trip that none of the current players had ever been up to Plattsburgh.  We used to play them every year, or at least scrimmage them, but I guess it's been several years now since we had played them.  They proved to be a very solid out of Conference/Region opponent as we went into extra points in the first set to pull out the win.  The second set was more of the same up til 12-12 and then we ran off 8 straight points to take a 20-12 lead that was too much to overcome for the Cardinals.  The third set was never tied after 9-9, and we went on a similar run to get up 20-12 again, but this time they fought back into the game and went on two separate 4-5 point runs to bring the score to 22-19.  They held us off on our first match point, but then a kill by Melanie put the game and match away 25-22. 

Our outside hitters had their way over the smaller right sides of Plattsburgh with 20 and 17 kills respectively by MJ and Amy.  Amy and Lauren led the team in digs with 13, and 11, and Piper led the team in blocks with 2.  Kathryn came home with 43 assists in only three sets, which was impressive.  We hit our goals for hitting %, receive rating, and RE ratio, so that was good.  We now have two days to practice before heading to CT for our next Conference Weekend at Wesleyan and Trinity.  The picture I have here is of some late-night mid-week antics at Subway last night after the match.  I think Kathryn started it, and I'm not even sure I can explain it, but they said it was "for the Blog!"  :)