Slump continues for injury-plagued volleyball

By Chris Boots

As in the past few seasons, volleyball has entered 2007 looking for its breakout year. This fall, the Maroons are watching another chance to reform the program slip away as injuries and inconsistent play get the best of the squad.

Extending their losing streak to eight games, Chicago (3–14) faced a difficult Benedictine (19–2) team at home Wednesday and dropped in a 3­–0 sweep.

Unfortunately for the Maroons, Benedictine may have had the game won from the offset. Winning 15 out of their last 16 games, the Eagles led the home team by wide margins in nearly every statistic, boasting nearly 300 more kills, 30 more blocks, and 60 more aces on the season. These numbers would challenge any opponent, but for Chicago, injuries to key players have severely limited the Maroons’ on-court opportunity, and made Benedictine’s big numbers especially difficult to surmount.

Feeling the loss of third-years Nikki Boddicker and Katie Volzer, the South Siders have slumped into their worst winning percentage at this point in the season since 2001, when the team stood at 1–11 on this date. The injury curse continued Wednesday night, as third-year outside hitter Kerry Dornfeld left the court midway through the second game following a rough dive.

“In every game, we tend to do one thing really well. We’re just having trouble putting it all together,” said Dornfeld. “I think we need to stay consistent and actually put it all together in each game.”

Opening the night’s action, Chicago looked rusty as trouble blocking and passing handed Benedictine plenty of points en route to the Eagles winning a quick 30–13 decision. Signs of turnaround appeared at the end of the game, however, and this cohesiveness spilled over into the Maroons’ best showing of the night in the next stanza.

Entering the second game as a seemingly different squad, the Maroons breathed some life into their efforts as they hung tight for a 30–26 loss. While still hitting far below their .234 season average, Chicago’s .175 attack percentage vastly improved on the first game’s .074. Fighting for 15 kills on offense, a match high, the Maroons kept it close throughout but lost the decision on a serving fault.

“We just realized that we needed to get it together and play,” said Dornfeld of the team’s newfound aggressiveness. “That was the reality of it. The first game we kept making little errors here and there, and it all added up. The second game we realized we needed to relax and play. We know how to do it all, it’s just an issue of getting there mentally.”

Looking for a last-chance victory in their final game, Chicago held Benedictine to a tight leash early on but the Eagles managed to find holes in the Maroons’ defense once again to clinch their victory with a 30–21 set. Attacking at a match low .026 percent, the South Siders’s offense just couldn’t keep them in the game.

The Maroons head into this weekend’s Wisconsin Lutheran Triangular against the host and Concordia looking for a lift before important conference action. Next weekend brings the squad back to the UAA, where Chicago will try for its first conference win against a tough host of foes including fourth-ranked Emory.

“I think gaining momentum this weekend is very important,” Dornfeld said. “The reality is that conference is the most important part of the season, and we want to go into next weekend strong so that we can be ranked strongly for the championship.”