Tournament run cut short by Wittenberg

Thursday was Chicago’s first match, against the Buffalo State Bengals (25–10). The game was intense, but the squad emerged with a 3–1 victory over the Bengals.

By Jenna Harris

Maintaining the excitement and adrenaline from winning their first-ever UAA title, the No. 16 South Siders (27–11, 6–1 UAA) headed to Hope College in Michigan for the DIII NCAA tournament, but saw their season end in the second round.

Thursday was Chicago’s first match, against the Buffalo State Bengals (25–10). The game was intense, but the squad emerged with a 3–1 victory over the Bengals.

After the Maroons dominated the first set, Buffalo State came back with a close win in the second. However, the South Siders regained their momentum in the third and fourth sets, earning them a spot in the second round of the tournament on Friday against No. 10 Wittenberg University (25–8).

Despite a thrilling first-set win, the South Siders ended up finishing off their season with a 3–1 loss to the Tigers.

With the set score of 30–28, the first set was quite the rally on both sides of the court. The Maroons commenced the match with a strong defense, with four blocks on their first five points. Their lead grew, but Wittenberg fought back to tie the score at 20–20, and after several alternating points, Chicago finally gained the two-point lead at 30.

In the second set, both squads were tied again mid-game at 13–13, but the Tigers took control to eventually win the set 25–20.

The third set went back and forth as well with Chicago taking an 18–16 lead. However, the Tigers took back the lead by the end of the set to win 25–22.

Wittenberg took a 10–4 lead in the fourth set but the Maroons stayed strong, getting within two points at 20–18 and 23–21. However, two kills by Wittenberg ended the match 25–21.

It was a tough loss, but the squad never quit. This marks the fourth successive season that the Maroons have been selected for the NCAA tournament and the third straight year they have made it to the second round.

This fourth-year class finished its run with the second-highest winning record for a four-year group in school history. Its four-year record of 116–41 (0.739) shows the success the class has had throughout its members’ college careers.

Additionally, the team received several recognitions.

Fourth-year setter Nikki DelZenero received First Team All-UAA, UAA MVP honors, and was named to the Regional All-Tournament Team. She has the school’s all-time record with 3,760 career assists. And that’s as someone who only spent three years with the school.

Third-year libero Eirene Kim was also picked for First Team All-UAA and was named a UAA MVP. Currently, Kim is second in school history with 1,888 digs.

Other standouts include two players on the All-UAA Second Team: fourth-year right-side hitter Katie Huntington and second-year outside hitter Maren Loe. Fourth-year middle blocker Maggie Vaughn and second-year outside hitter Jasmine Mobley were also recognized as Honorable Mentions.

“When the season ends on a loss, that’s never a good feeling. But when it comes to the NCAA tournament, every team ends on a loss, but one—the NCAA Champion. I’m so happy to be a part of this program, and to represent the University of Chicago in this way,” Mobley said, summarizing her thoughts on the season. “I’m excited to get back to work towards an amazing next season, with the girls and the coaches during the spring.”