Chicago nets win in final home game

Volleyball won its last home game against Concordia on Tuesday.

By Jake Grubman

With a strong win over Concordia Tuesday night and the second UAA Round Robin approaching this weekend, the Maroons have checked another item off their “To Do” list for the season and will have the chance to mark off a few more in conference play.

The 17th-ranked Maroons (20–5) wrapped up their home schedule with Senior Night on Tuesday, a thorough 3–0 win over Concordia (9–13). But for a team with high aspirations for the postseason, this weekend’s Round Robin will offer another opportunity for Chicago to continue its climb in D-III volleyball.

“We’re not there yet,” third-year Colleen Belak said. “Our season isn’t over yet, and we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing if we want to come out of it and be proud of what we’ve done.”

Concordia entered the match marred by a six-match losing streak, and an energetic crowd at the Ratner Center was on hand for the Maroons’ 25–19, 25–20, 25–18 victory on Senior Night.

“We came out, and we were steady as far as our morale, and we were steady as far as our play,” third-year Isis Smalls said.

The win sealed a perfect home record for Chicago, who played just three matches at Ratner. Since head coach Vanessa Walby arrived with the Class of 2012 three years ago, Chicago has gone 17–3 at home.

“[Having only three home matches] is not totally desirable, but it also makes each one extra special,” Belak said. “Having a big crowd, which we did Tuesday, and how many people came out and how many people seemed to be having a good time, it really helped energize us.”

Smalls led the way with 10 kills on the night, while Belak followed with 9 kills in 17 attempts.

The victory was the team’s fifth win in six contests and, more significantly, another win in the Midwest Region. With a 13–3 record in the Midwest, Chicago must win its final six games against Midwest competition to reach its preseason goal of a 19–3 record in the region.

More importantly, Chicago demonstrated consistency throughout Tuesday evening’s match, an aspect of play that Smalls said would be vital for the Maroons heading down the stretch.

“Overall, we still haven’t reached our potential,” Smalls said. “Even though we’ve been consistently winning, we haven’t been consistently playing our best. That shows how good we are, but at the same time, if we want to compete against teams at Nationals and things like that, we have to be more consistent.”

Consistent play became a major target for Chicago at the last UAA Round Robin, where mental lapses cost the South Siders a major upset over top-ranked Wash U. As the Maroons head into the second Round Robin this weekend at Brandeis, level play will be vital against a stronger slate of competition.

Starting off the weekend against 23rd-ranked NYU Saturday morning, the Maroons follow with Case in the afternoon, with Carnegie and 2nd-ranked Emory coming up on Sunday.

Perennial powerhouse Emory barely edged Chicago the last time these teams met, a 3–2 affair in the second round of last year’s UAA tournament. An upset win for the Maroons would leave them in good shape for UAA tournament seeding in November and ease the sting of the narrow loss to Wash U two weeks ago.

“I think we’re really excited [about this weekend],” Smalls said. “With Emory, they’re ranked number two right now, and for a while we’ve been saying we can beat them. We’ve been saying it and nothing has been done. And with us having a chance against Wash U, to fall short of that, I don’t think we’re going to let that happen again.”

This weekend’s action kicks off with Chicago and NYU taking the court at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.