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!!