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!

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