The Maroons have suffered a litany of injuries this season, but Wednesday night’s loss to Illinois Tech left Chicago speculating on what could be its most painful injury of the year.
With the Scarlet Hawks (24–10) leading 18–13 in the third game, second-year middle hitter Diandra Bucciarelli rose for one of her 32 attacks of the game. As play continued on Illinois Tech’s half, Bucciarelli hit the floor with a scream, clutching her knee.
Bucciarelli’s injury was an instant shock to the Maroons, as the middle hitter currently leads the team with 11 double-doubles and has complemented fourth-year outside hitter Koryn Kendall with 281 kills on the season.
“We’ve had lots of injuries this year, but nothing this severe,” head coach Dorinda von Tersch said. “I think right now, of course, we’re praying it’s not something that will require any surgery, but again, we just have to wait for the MRI.”
Although there was no fracture, von Tersch speculated that Bucciarelli, who was carried off the court after several minutes, might have suffered a torn ACL.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Maroons (5–20, 1–6 UAA), who were experimenting with new defensive positions so that the team could capitalize on Bucciarelli’s talent for conference play.
“She has great speed, and she reads well,” von Tersch said. “She’s an amazing player. This team is going to have to rally together; everyone is going to have to step up their quality of play.”
The Scarlet Hawks’ 30–22, 30–25, 30–16 victory over the South Siders seemed like an afterthought for Chicago spectators, who celebrated fourth-year outside hitter Koryn Kendall in her final home game and lamented Bucciarelli’s injury.
Fans celebrated the senior’s prolific career with a recognition ceremony prior to the game. Kendall, a three-time team captain, currently holds the school record for career blocks and is closing in on third place for career kills.
“She’s everything a coach would want in a captain,” von Tersch said. “She’s taken underclassmen under her wing, and she’s been a great role model.”
Opening conference play short Bucciarelli, von Tersch will once again turn to Kendall for her leadership among the team members and her enthusiasm on the court.
“She has the ability to be very aggressive in her game, yet at the same time keep in perspective what the team needs,” von Tersch said.
Kendall’s .420 hitting percentage currently stands at fourth in DIII, just one thousandth of a point from second place with two weeks to play in the season.
Unfortunately for Kendall and the Maroons, the night’s celebration ended at the opening whistle.
Illinois Tech came out firing, scoring eight of the game’s first nine points on the service of fourth-year setter Allison Bagby.
“We’re still playing flat,” coach Dorinda von Tersch said. “Our serve-receive passing has been our nemesis the last couple of weeks…. If anything has held us back, it’s inconsistent passing.”
Down 24–10, Chicago mounted its attack, tallying six consecutive points and gaining momentum heading into the second game.
Chicago took its first lead of the night on the first point of the second game but would not lead for the rest of the way, again struggling to return serves.
Looking to avoid a three-game sweep, the South Siders jumped ahead 5–1 in the third game. Illinois Tech scored 10 of the next 11 points, but Chicago climbed back into the game with three points of its own.
Trailing 13–10, the Maroons spiked another point, but the official ruled that a Chicago player had touched the net, thereby giving the point to Illinois Tech. Chicago would score just six more points the rest of the night.
The South Siders head to the west suburbs this weekend for the Elmhurst Invitational before the UAA Championship tournament, which starts November 2 in Rochester, New York. Despite a 1–6 record in UAA play this season, Chicago, along with Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, Case, and NYU, remains in competition for third place, behind perennial first- and second-place finishers Washington and Emory.
“Anyone could finish third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh.…” von Tersch said. “It will literally come down to who is the most consistent.”