Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Team Celebrates Season with Banquet at Waybury Inn

It feels like the season has been over for a long time already, so it was so fun to get the team back together for our banquet Friday night.  Due to the generosity of an alum, and parents of a former player, whose donations allowed us to pay for the banquet, we were able to have a really nice dinner to celebrate our season without asking any of the team to pay, which was great.  We gathered at the Waybury Inn for our dinner and celebrated with good food, some lively conversation and some nice awards.  Most of our awards were certificates that were issued from the NEWVA, AVCA, or the NESCAC, which have already been revealed in previous blog entries after the season, in addition to our Varsity M letter and corresponding certificate.  [PE credit is a graduation requirement, so everyone dose receive 1 credit for playing a varsity sport at MIDD, and thus we have certificates for that.]  However, we did have three awards that were voted on by the team to reveal and hand out also.

Here are the Team Awards that we voted on, and the recipients:

Panther Pride:  This is a new award meant to honor the person on the team who was the best Teammate.  This person should be someone who made those around her better by holding themselves and their teammates accountable to a high standard of excellence both on and off the court. She should be someone who was supportive and understanding, but keeping our mantra of “It’s all about the Team” in mind with her interactions with all teammates.  BECCA RAFFEL

Yellow Jersey Award:  This award is to recognize the person who you feel gave consistent effort in practice on a daily basis throughout the season.  This person should be someone who you feel goes above and beyond in their efforts to become a better player, and demonstrated this consistently throughout the season. CLAIRE WHITE-DZURO

MCVB Spirit Award:  This award is to recognize the person who you feel consistently demonstrated the positive spirit of Middlebury Volleyball.  This person should be someone who was consistently being positive and really encouraging others on a consistent basis, whether things were going well or not, both in practice and at games.  GABI ROSENFELD

Congratulations to all of the award winners!  Of the rest of the awards that were given out at the end of the season, one that bears repeating here is the Academic All-NESCAC awards.  Every upperclassmen on the team achieved this award, which is quite impressive!!  That says a lot about this group of young women, and their dedication to their academics in addition to their dedication to MCVB!  Way to go, ladies!!

We also recognized Judd for his tremendous contributions to our Team all season.  His proactive approach to helping us strengthen areas that he feels he treats often in several people, in addition to helping take care of the injuries is a huge help to us, and we thank him sincerely for those efforts!  Not to mention his sense of humor...We also wanted to recognize Pat Manley for being our Faculty Affiliate.  Unfortunately, she couldn't make our celebration, but she was with us in spirit!  

I also thank our Assistant Coaches for all of the tremendous amount of work they all do.  Brian is a rock--he's so dedicated to this team, and I think everyone understands that, but he is up early to get to work for a full day so he can leave early to be down here for practice.  Then he stays late so individuals can work on whatever they want to after practice in addition to talking with me about everything involved in the Program.  Having both Meg and Lizzy this year was a total bonus.  They both added so much to both practices and games that I felt a little spoiled this year by having a "staff!"  Their insights and contributions to helping with everything from individual skill technique to fitness, to team tactics is so helpful.  I'm so grateful for having them all be involved with our Program to make MCVB be all that it is!!
Our captains were also voted on by the team, and so now as our "off-season" starts, we have a new set of captains to take the reigns and organize the team for next year.  Hannah was again selected captain, along with Gabi and Becca.  Since all four juniors will be going abroad this Spring, that puts Becca and the rest of the sophomores in charge of our off-season workouts, community service,  and team bonding activities.  

We wish our juniors safe travels to their respective places abroad, and I'm sure we'll be hearing from them.  Happy Holidays to all!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hannah, Becca and Isabel Honored by NEWVA & AVCA

The rest of the post-season awards came out last week, and Hannah, Becca and Isabel were all honored.  Both the NEWVA (New England Women's Volleyball Association) and the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) came out with their awards, and MIDD was well-represented, so congrats guys!

The NEWVA Awards were as follows:
  • Becca--2nd Team All-Region
  • Hannah--Honorable Mention All-Region  
  • Isabel--All-Rookie Team
The AVCA awards were:
  • Becca--Honorable Mention All-American
  • Becca--All-Region (Northeast Region)
  • Hannah--Honorable Mention All-Region (Northeast Region)

These are very nice honors to be sure.  It's obviously very difficult to make an All-Conference Team, and then that much harder to be singled out as the groups get larger and larger, so congrats to all three of these players for such nice individual honors.  AND, as it always needs to be acknowledged, without the TEAM, these individual honors don't mean anything.  So, congrats to MCVB 2015 for a great season!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

All-NESCAC Teams Announced--Becca 1st Team, Hannah 2nd Team!

 The NESCAC just posted the All-Conference Team, and both Becca and Hannah were honored by the Conference.  Becca was the only underclassmen represented on either team, which was comprised of all juniors and seniors, as she was honored by being named to the First Team this year after being 2nd Team last year along with Co-Rookie of the Year honors.  Here is what they said about both:

"Sophomore outside hitter Becca Raffel did it all for Middlebury this season. The 2014 NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year is second in the league with 357 kills and third with 3.80 kills per set while hitting .257. She also posted 224 digs en route to nine double-doubles to go along with 31 service aces."
   "Middlebury junior setter Hannah Blackburn was the remaining repeat selection, as she landed on the Second Team for the second straight year."  

This is a great honor for both of these players, as it's very tough to be named one of the top players in a Conference as deep in talent as the NESCAC.  Congrats to both of you!
Becca was also our selection for the NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team, which is a very nice honor voted on by her teammates, so congrats to Becca for that honor also!

Here's the link to the official release:  2015 All-NESCAC Volleyball Team's Announced

Monday, November 9, 2015

Season Ends in NESCAC Semi-Finals

We earned the #4 seed after beating Tufts in our last regular season match at home on Halloween weekend, and for that, we ended up having to play them again the following weekend in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Tournament in the #4 vs #5 match at Bowdoin.  Because we played the 8pm match, we were planning on spending the night regardless of outcome, but we all wanted to spend the night, AND play the next day this year! 

Our travel issues that we've had more this year than ever before unfortunately continued, and we found ourselves sitting in traffic on I 295 at 6pm when we wanted to be pulling into the gym!  It was very unseasonably warm outside, and the upper gym where we were due to play was very hot after the 5:30 match, so that seemed to work in our favor as some of our players who normally heat before matches were able to be ready to warm up in much less time than usual, and we started our warmup about 20 minutes after arriving on campus, and only about 5-10 minutes later than usual.  The Team was very focused, and they were composed and ready to go from the start, despite our disrupted routine from arriving late.  We came out and played tough right from the start, taking both of the first two sets from Tufts. 

We did have some fans there cheering for us.  We had several parents again, which is great especially considering the travel up to Maine!  Isabel's mom beat us to the gym, I think, and I know I saw Sarah's mom and Gracie, and the Kolodkas, and maybe Jen's parents.  I may be missing some others, but thank you to all those that made the trek to cheer us on!  And, one of my best college friends lives in Brunswick, and although her husband works at Bowdoin, they're both MIDD alums, so her kids proudly wore their MIDD gear to support us also!

The first set was very tight with 13 tied scores, and no one able to get up by more than 3 points the entire set.  Tied at 22-22, a kill by Gabi and Becca surrounding an attack error by them put us up 1-0 in sets.  The second set was more a set of streaks than the first.  We raced out to leads of 6-2 and 19-7 before Tufts closed the gap on a couple of runs of their own, scoring 5 unanswered points, then a couple more, then, down 16-24, they rallied off four straight points before we could notch the last one we needed to win the set 25-20.

Tufts held the momentum from their comeback, taking an 8-0 lead in the 3rd set.  We had several attack errors, and made some personnel changes, and chipped away at the lead they had built after their strong start.  Down 2-10, we fought back to 12-18, and 16-22, but couldn't get close enough to challenge for the set, and we dropped that set 19-25.  The fourth set was back and forth again, with 9 tied scores up to 13-13.  We had a couple of two point runs, but then up 17-15 we went on a 5 point run behind  strong serving by Becca to take a 22-15 lead that we wouldn't give up.  Up 22-16, Gabi got a kill, and followed it up with a service ace to take us to match point, that we won on a block by Melanie and Hannah for the win!  Here's the link for the Tufts Match

Emily led five players with double digit digs with a team high 25, while also matching Gabi for match and team high 3 aces.  Gabi also paced our net defense with a match high 5 blocks.   Becca was our offensive leader with a match high 15 kills, while also tallying 2 blocks, 2 aces, and 13 digs. Hannah set a very balanced offense with 6 players with double digit attempts and very evenly balanced with the exception of Becca, who plays 6 rotations.  Eliana, Gabi, and Alice were our most efficient hitters, along with Hannah, all hitting over .286.

I was very proud of the team for the way we responded to arriving later than we wanted, and for our composure during the match.  Tufts is a very animated team, and is very loud and excitable, and with several seniors on the team we knew they would be ready for our re-match.  We'd just beaten them on the last day of the regular season, exactly a week before, and it's tough to beat the same team twice in a row, especially if they're a strong team.  However, we were very steady, and composed, and we played together, just like we've been talking about all season.  Alice came in and played outside for us when we were struggling to get something going at the beginning of the 3rd set, and that proved to be a key switch.  Our depth in several positions has been a key for us all season!  Different people have stepped up at various times to impact our on-court success, and that's always a sign of a very good team, and it was great to see that in our team this year.  We were also very competitive in practice day in and day out, and that makes a big difference as the season progresses, too. It was a great match for us, and was fun to play! 

We stayed at the same hotel as our Field Hockey team that was playing in the NESCAC semi's on Saturday at Bowdoin also, so that was fun.  As the 4th seed, we played Bowdoin (#1 seed) on Saturday after they'd beaten Bates in a quick 3-0 match (that was over before we even arrived at the gym Friday night!)  We made our ritualistic stop at DD on Saturday morning on our way to Bowdoin, but the extra caffeine wasn't quite enough to propel us past the Polar Bears. 

We were tough in the first set, keeping it pretty close, but we always seemed to be playing catch up.  We were constantly behind by 3-4 points, but kept fighting back after we'd go down by a few points, and tied it a 13-13, and 14-14 before they went on a 7 point run that we couldn't recover from.  Down 14-21, we made a run of our own to get back to 18-23, and then scored a few more to close the final gap, but lost the first set 21-25.

The second set was more of the same, except that we got out to an early lead 11-7 before they again went on an 8 point run to go up 15-11.  We countered with a run of our own to tie it at 17-17.  They went up 22-19, and again, we fought back to tie it at 22-22, and then 24-24 before they blocked us, and then a tough float serve looked to be sailing out, and then just dropped on the back line between two of us for set point.

That was a bit deflating, but then the 3rd set put the nail in the coffin, so to speak.  They got out to a 1-4 lead, and then a 7-12 lead before again rattling off 7 serves on their setter's serve once again, and that put us down 8-19.  We fought, and had some great scramble plays, but we just couldn't overcome that deficit.  There's a part of me that hates to say this, but I think Bowdoin was probably the best team we played this year.  Both Williams and Amherst were very good, but not as consistent against us as Bowdoin was, at least in this final match.  Here's the link to the stats for the Bowdoin Match.  Hannah and Emily tied for team highs in digs (14), while Becca and Isabel tied for team highs in kills (8).  Melanie was our lone blocker tallying more than 1.  Sarah and Alice were our most efficient hitters, hitting .333 each, while Isabel and Gabi both hit above .200 as well.

We'd played them so long ago during the regular season, back in the middle of September, that we hardly remembered that match.  I had watched several matches more recently, and we knew they had a very good middle attack, and one of the best pin hitters in the Conference in #17, and those kids definitely hurt us.  Their defense was really what made the difference as they were in system so much more than most teams we'd played recently, especially Tufts, and that allowed their offense to do whatever they wanted.  They hit around our block, tipped over our block, and really challenged our defense in every way.  Our defense has been steadily getting better pretty much all season, and our offense has improved as well, to the point where I felt like we were peaking at the right time.  Our matches with Tufts the last two weeks were great examples of that level of play, but we just didn't quite have enough on Saturday to best a hot Bowdoin team, who did go on to win the Championship against Williams on Sunday.  We had great contributions from many different people, and that depth was a key for us all season.  We haven't been able to use depth like that for several years, and I'm very excited and encouraged by that as we have everyone coming back next year with no seniors on this team.

I was hoping to get to have dinner with the team Saturday night before Championship Sunday, but I did end up getting a lobster roll with Melanie that we brought back on the bus to eat on the way home.  A little heavy on the mayo, but still pretty good!

Now, we'll take some time off, get caught up on work, and then hopefully start up with some team community service opportunities, some lifting, and just general college life experiences outside of volleyball.  All four juniors are going abroad, so we'll hope to have some fun updates from them later this year, and we'll hopefully have some holiday cookie decorating fun, among other things--maybe even another Catan playday?!  Thanks Team, for a wonderful season!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

MIDD Splits Final Weekend--Takes 4th Seed for NESCAC's

Halloween Weekend, final home matches, and the end of the regular season.  We were already in the NESCAC tournament, but seeding was undecided.  Most of the other matches across the league were going to be lopsided, most likely, but our gym ended up having the deciding action.   Before practice on Thursday, however, we had to celebrate a bit of Halloween!  We had quite a mix of costumes, which was fun, as always.

Conn proved to be a tough challenge to start out our weekend.  Isabel had been sick all week, and awaiting test results, but other than that, we were pretty healthy and feeling good, I thought.  We came out somewhat flat, and had some tough times connecting with each other, and just looked a little out of sync.  The match itself was very close, but we seemed to be playing catch up all night.  They'd go up by a couple points, and then we'd come back, but for the most part, we were behind except for a couple of times we went up by one point.  The first (25-27) and third (26-28) games both went to extra points, but we came out on the short end both times.  The middle game they led the entire way and ended up winning by 5 points, 20-25.

We tried switching up our personnel, but nothing seemed to be enough to overcome our funk.  Balls were dropping between people, and we had miscommunications, and things were just a struggle.  Let's give credit to Conn for coming out strong, but we didn't give them a good fight, I didn't think, and thus the three set match despite the closeness of the two sets.  Neither team hit well, as both teams were below our averages:  Conn hit .171, and we hit an abysmal .074--it's tough to win hitting like that.

Saturday was a new day, and we came out ready to play.  Despite dropping the first set, we were playing better than we had the night before, so that was a good sign.  We were being aggressive, and making shots.  The first set we hit well below our average again, almost like we had the night before, but it had a different feel to it than before.  Tufts is a better blocking team than Conn, and we got blocked a little, but we were more in sync with each other, and were playing together, so I felt like we had good fight in us, even from the start.

We got behind early and trailed by a few points most of the first set, but we came back to tie it at 20-20, and 21-21, but three straight kills by them put them at set point.  A kill by Becca was all we would get as the set closed out on an aggressive net error by us.  We were fighting, though...The second set started out all us as we raced out to a 5-0 lead on Hannah's serve.  They tied it at 11, and we traded points for a bit before we went up 20-17.  They got to within one and stayed there right up to 23-24 before Isabel ended the game with a kill for the set win to tie the match at one game apiece.

The third set was back and forth again until we took a 14-11 lead, and led 20-15 before Tufts fought back to tie it at 20-20 on three kills bookended by two attack errors by us.  Becca broke the tie and put us up one again at 21-20, and a kill by Eliana and some errors on their side gave the game to us and the lead 2-1 in sets.  The fourth set was again back and forth up to an 11-11 tie before we scored four unanswered points on Hannah's serve again to go up 15-11.  Up 21-16, a couple of kills by Melanie and one by Isabel, and sprinkled with errors by Tufts, and we had 6 match points at 24-18.  One more kill was all they would get before making another attack error and the match was over.

We had great support by parents, both current parents and alum parents.  I think I saw Emily's, Isabel's, Becca's and Jen's parents, in addition to Sarah's dad maybe?!  I may be missing people, too, so I apologize if I'm missing anyone.  Meg's parents were both here with fellow alum parents Melanie and Charlie Underbrink and Angela Jarchow for Friday's match, and took this picture to the left at a favorite spot in town--the Wine Bar!  MJ joined us on the bench as a guest assistant coach on Friday, and both Barretts were here all weekend, too.  Whitney Bean's parents were in town for their youngest son's (MIDD '17) soccer match on Saturday, but they came to watch us as they always do when they're in town--THANK YOU ALL for your support!!   All that good karma and you'd have thought that we might pull out two wins, but at least we got one!

For our efforts, we earned the 4th seed, playing Tufts again on Friday night up at Bowdoin in the 8pm match.  It's a very exciting time of year, and we're all ready for the challenge of trying to win another NESCAC Championship!  LETS GO MIDD!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

New England Challenge Matches Prove to be Tough Challenge

This weekend has always been the Hall of Fame Tournament, which for the last 5 years has also meant Meg's birthday!  This year it fell on Thursday, before we left, so we had to celebrate after practice with some cake for Meg!

Instead of the Hall of Fame Tournament, we went to MIT for a New England Challenge Tournament.  It's basically the same thing:  three NESCAC teams played three NEWMAC teams, so it was a good test for how we match up against some of the top teams in NE other than NESCAC.  We played MIT on Friday night, and fought hard, but just didn't have the umph to come through, I'm afraid.   We were tied 16-16 in the first set before MIT went on a 5-0 run that we couldn't come back from.  Set two saw them score points in runs again, scoring at least 3 points in a row on three different occasions, taking a lead of 12-18.  We clawed our way back in it to get within 2 at 17-19, but another run took them to 17-22 and they took set two 19-25.  Set three we got off to a great start, and lead from the first point, taking a lead of 16-13 before they scored two kills, while we had two hitting errors, and suddenly we're down one 16-17.  We tied it at 17, and then went quickly down by two-three points before we rallied to come within one again at 22-23, before two kills by their OH put the match away for good.

We headed back to our hotel knowing that our Italian dinners were being delivered to the hotel about the same time we'd get there, and everyone was pretty excited about that, despite our disappointment about the game.  Morning came pretty early as we grabbed our to-go breakfast bags and ate on the bus (except for those of us that got up early enough to eat it at the hotel.)  We departed for MIT again at about 8am, and arrived on our characteristically early schedule.

Being in Boston has certain advantages for everyone, I think, as alums and parents can get to us a little more easily.  Rose, Sarah, Melanie, Alice, Jen, and Emily all had family there, and several of the players had friends there also.  We also had several alums, and alum families in the gym over the weekend, which was fantastic.  Amy Hart, Elissa Goeke, Caitlin Barrett, Katie Kenney Enslin and her parents, and Meg's parents and sister were all there at points throughout the weekend. Amy brought a group of boys she's teaching for an afternoon outing on Saturday, while Elissa was visiting her friend who coaches Field Hockey at MIT, and Katie Enslin has recently moved back to the Boston area with her family.  It's always nice to have fans, and to see family, friends and alums, so THANK YOU to all that came out to support us this weekend!

Babson was our first opponent, and they were on a roll after beating MIT earlier in the week, and then beating Williams on Friday night. Those were both big wins, and I think they were anticipating playing Tufts in the afternoon as they'd never beaten them before.  Thus, they may have been overlooking us, as we've never played them before, and therefore had no history with them, good or bad.  Anyway, we came out ready to play, and took early leads of 10-3, and 19-12.  They staged a comeback, and came within 4 at 20-16, but would get no closer than that as we took the first set 25-19.  We scored 15 kills in that first set, hitting .248 behind 5 kills by Becca, 4 by Eliana and Isabel, and tough serving runs by Emily, Claire, Becca and Hannah.

Set two was more of the same as we took the early leads of 10-4, 19-8, and 23-9.  They staged a comeback scoring 9 of the last 11 points before we could claim the 2nd set 25-18.  The 3rd (and final) set was back and forth the whole way up to a 19-19 tie, featuring 10 tied scores in there.    We took the lead 23-20 behind three kills from Becca and an ace from Hannah.  They scored twice more, but Becca planted a kill straight to the floor, and Mel finished them off with a solo block to take the match in straight sets.

We then had time to watch the ends of the other matches going on as both Tufts and Williams ended up in 5 set matches vs. MIT and Wellesley, respectively.  And, we had time to eat, relax, and even sleep and foam roll...

Wellesley came into the weekend having had a slower start to their season then usual, but playing well as of late.  They lost to Tufts on Friday night, but beat Williams in 5 before break for lunch.  After lunch, I'm not sure we fully regrouped.  We looked a little lethargic, and had trouble sustaining any momentum from earlier in the day when we'd played very well.  We seemed a step slow in receive, and also lagged a bit in receive and hustle plays.  We lost the first set 25-22 even with our 15 kills hitting .333.  Their 11 kills came with only 1 error, and 6 receiving errors by us kept it a very close set.  Emily scored three of her four aces in the first set, and Gabi's kill brought us to a 22-22 tie, but it wasn't quite enough as two hitting errors and a kill from them gave the first set to Wellesley.  Set two belonged to us behind some good serving again from Emily and Claire, and Wellesley was out of system and making errors, and we cruised to a 25-17 victory.

That victory was short-lived, however, as the third set saw us find every different way to make an error. Several different people had receiving and ball-handling errors, adding up to a deficit of 8-18.  Gabi got a kill, and then an ace before she served a total of 6 times to bring us to within 4 at 14-18.  We traded points a bit, but couldn't quite get back tied as we lost the 3rd set 19-25.  At least we got some momentum back after clawing our way back into that set.  The 4th set was back and forth again up to a 17-17 tie.  They pushed a lead to 18-22 before back to back kills by Charlotte and Melanie, followed by an ace by Sarah put us within 1 at 21-22.  The match finished out on errors by both teams, capped off with the final of her match high 20 kills by their MH that gave us fits all match.  Their 18 kills in the fourth set was too much for our defense to handle, so despite hitting .250 for the match, our defense couldn't stop their offense enough for the win.

We're back at home next weekend for our final NESCAC matches of the regular season with Conn at 8pm on Friday night, followed by Tufts on Saturday at 2 pm.  We're definitely in the tournament, it's just a matter of seeding now as we definitely have the toughest schedule left of teams to play, so at least our destiny is somewhat in our own hands at this point.  We'll prepare all week and look forward to the NESCAC challenge on Halloween weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

MIDD Picks Up Two More Wins in Maine

It wasn't easy, but we came away from Maine with two more Wins, which puts us in a four-way tie for 2nd in NESCAC at the moment.  We stopped at a rest area once into Maine to stretch our legs a bit, so I took a picture of the fake moose, just for fun.  Moose = Maine?!  (We actually saw a moose on the side of the road years ago on our way over the mountains in VT going to Norwich, but that's the only time we've seen one in recent years.)

Colby proved to be a very tough contender and they had a large Friday night crowd there at the beginning, which was a fun atmosphere to play in, even when they're not cheering for you.  We got off to a rough start, and things just weren't smooth and clicking for us.  After dropping the first set, we clawed our way into a two point victory in set two before entering the third set tied at 1-1.  The game teetered back and forth up to a 14-14 tie when Isabel went back to serve and served a total of 10 times taking us to set point.  Colby fought off three points, but then succumbed, and we won the third set 25-16, and took a 2-1 lead in the match. 

We seemed to have found some sort of rhythm, or at least we thought maybe we had, but Colby turned around and took the fourth set from start to finish to force the decisive 5th set.  We started strong and raced out to a 6-1 lead, and eventually a 14-8 lead before Colby again mounted a fight and took three straight points sitting at match point before we notched the final point for the 15-11 win.

The next day was an easy trip down to Bates for our second match of the weekend.  Most of the team hadn't been to either of these Maine schools, so that was fun.  Some of the team was intrigued with the stuffed Bobcat at Bates and posed for a picture before the match! 

We struggled to get going again a little by only hitting .146 in the first set, but managed to get out to a 22-13 lead before Bates made a late run.  We proved to have enough to overpower the Bates squad and we took the first set 25-19.  However, Bates showed it had some fight in them and they completely dominated the 2nd set.  We scored the first point, and never lead after that as Bates jumped out to leads of 4-1, and 19-10 before closing out the second set with a 25-14 win.  It was one of the few, and possibly the only set where we hit a -.065 hitting for the set.  Tough to win doing that.

The last two sets belonged to us, however, as we finally found our stride.  We jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind two kills apiece from Melanie and Eliana and never looked back.  Melanie powered out 4 kills in that set to go with 3 from Eliana, Sarah and Becca as we easily took the set 25-14.  The final set was back and forth and even saw us get behind early by a score of 4-7, and 6-8 before we scored 8 unanswered points to take a commanding 14-8 lead that swelled to 21-12.  Becca exploded for 5 of her 6 kills in the set during that 8 point run stretch and put the match out of reach for a defeated Bates team that just seemed to run out of steam.  We hit a blistering .357 compared to their .114 in the final set to close out the win, and the Maine Sweep!

Now, we're headed to MIT to take on some non-Conference foes from the NEWMAC Conference.  It should be a fun weekend as we get to battle some tough New England teams that are not NESCAC in this dual Conference showdown.  We actually get to root for our NESCAC rivals as it's sort of a Conference vs Conference match-up.  AND, it's Fall Break, so hopefully people will get a little stress relief with a day off from class.  Fun times!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MIDD Splits with the Purple Schools at Home

Well, it was a big weekend at MIDD for us.  Not only was it our new President's Inauguration, but we were hosting both Purples Schools (Amherst on Friday night, and Williams on Saturday afternoon), and we were celebrating our MCVB Family Weekend.  So, to get the party started, Meg texted me a picture of her at the Burlington Airport with Hannah's parents.  Meg was just getting back from two weeks of Admissions travel, and ran into Andy and Boyd flying in for parents' weekend! 

Then, the real action began.  On Friday night, we started out well, and played back and forth with Amherst for the beginning of the first set until we blew open a 10 point lead to go up 18-8, and 22-14 before they made a late run to close the gap to 23-19.  A kill by Hannah and one by Becca closed out the first set win at 25-20.  The second set was again very close, but this time, it was back and forth the whole time, featuring 11 ties right up to 19-19, but we seemed to be playing catch up more this time, as we'd fall behind by a couple points, and then come back.  We had our last lead at 19-18, before they went on a final run to set point at 19-24 and we finished out dropping the second set 21-25.  We knew going in that these NESCAC matches would be decided by a very narrow margin, so we were up for the battle.

The third set saw us build up a lead relatively early, going up 12-7, and 18-12.  Again both teams had their runs, but we wouldn't give up much ground as even with their runs closing the gap to within four points, they never got closer than that and we finished it out at 25-17.  The fourth set saw us go up again early for a 6-1 lead out of the gates, but as had become the mainstay, Amherst came on with a run of their own to tie the game at 12-12.  They were playing catch-up this time as we'd go up by a few points, and then they'd come back.  We even got to three match points at 24-21 before they made another last push and tied the game.  We traded points before a kill by each of our OH's put the match in the books as a W when Isabel got a kill, followed by Becca's kill for the game winner!   

Our hitting % for the game was .259, and we had three people with double digit digs:  Emily with 23, Charlotte with 18, and Becca with 15.  Mel again led all players with 6 block assists.  Hannah had a match high 5 service aces to go with her 5 kills, and 3 block assists for a very well rounded game, as did Becca with a double-double of 20 kills and 15 digs.  

There were many great moments, really, but a couple of highlights were Hannah's overpass kill with authority, and Isabel's hitting %.  Isabel hit a team high of .432 with 19 kills and only 3 errors on 37 swings.  After Becca's 20 kills and Isabel's 19, Eliana came through with the next most kills at 8 with a .263 hitting %.  Amherst had been the #2 ranked team in the New England Region coming into the weekend, and we knew we matched up well with them, but we hadn't really been tested, so it was really good to see how we could play with a well-respected and highly ranked team.

The next afternoon we took on Williams at 2pm. We got off to a pretty slow start for whatever reason.  It was back and forth early on as we were tied at 10-10, but then Williams opened up a lead of 13-19 and it looked somewhat grim.  We fought back in it, however, and clawed back to 18-21, and 21-23 before dropping the last two points on a Williams kill and an error by us to lose that first set.  The second set saw us get behind early, and once again claw our way back, but 18-23 was as close as we would get and we dropped that set 18-25 and now faced being down 0-2 in sets. 

We made some personnel changes, and kept fighting back, and got out to a 14-8 and 18-12 lead before a late run by Williams eventually tied the game at 20-20.  From that point on, we literally traded points being tied at every point until at 25-25, although we had gone up set point every single time.  Finally, a kill by Alice, followed by a kill by Isabel gave us the set win, and kept us in the game!  The fourth set was all us, as we got out to a lead pretty early, and hung on to it this time to take the fourth set 25-18, and we forced a deciding 5th set! 

The fifth set saw us start out slowly, and get behind early by a few points, but again we fought back to tie it at 10.  Three quick kills by them forced us to call a timeout, followed by two kills by Becca to bring us within one point at 12-13, but it wasn't enough to put us over the top, and we lost 12-15.  It was a very hard fought match, with many ties and many runs by both sides. 

I was very proud of the team for the way that we fought back after being down two sets, and we just kept fighting.  We showed poise not only in fighting back into it, but also getting a lead in that third set, and then blowing it, yet still showing enough composure to close out the win and extend the match.  Overall, our hitting % was .248, and we had 7 more kills than they did for the match, but we had more errors in every category except Receiving Errors, and we tied them with 8 service errors.  Otherwise, we had more hitting errors, more blocking errors, and more ball handling errors.  I think the main takeaway for us was that we can definitely play with anyone, and if and when we see them again, we'll be that much more prepared for their pace of play.

After the match, the team and all the families went to Flatbread to celebrate our Family Weekend, and it was a great event.  Thank you to Melanie's mom for organizing, and to all the parents for making the trek out here from all over the country!  Almost everyone had at least one parent, and everyone adopted Rose, whose father had just been out the week before to watch us play down in CT. 

When the NESCAC weekly report came out, we were well positioned in almost every category, so we're really working on keeping strong with our fundamentals and keep moving forward with our goals.  We're sitting atop the league in Hitting % & Kills, and third in Assists, Blocks, and Service Aces.  Individually, Melanie is the league leader in blocks, and 2nd in hitting %.  Hannah is second in Assists and 5th in service aces, and both Becca and Isabel are in the top 10 in Kills with Becca 2nd, and Isabel 8th.  Gabi rounds out the individual honors by placing 10th in the league in Hitting %, so congrats to all for posting those stats.

We try not to place too much emphasis on stats, but they can definitely be a useful tool for evaluation, and affirmation at times, so it's nice to see people recognized for their statistical contributions.  We all recognize, however, that it's ALL ABOUT THE TEAM, and while it's nice to get the individual recognition, it's really the team stats that we're focusing on, so it's great to see MIDD near the top in several categories.

Now, we're on to preparing for Colby and Bates, and our trek over to Maine.  It doesn't even seem all that bad since it took us almost 8 hours to get to Hamilton, and 6 to get to Trinity, so the trip which should take about 6+ hours, we're leaving almost 7 to get there, so hopefully we won't run into any travel troubles this time!