Volleyball grabs third at tourney

By Steve Saltarelli

Volleyball picked up consecutive wins this weekend, gathering steam for the looming UAA championships.

The Maroons (7–22) snatched third place at the nine-team Elmhurst invite this weekend by sweeping North Park (6–20) and Westminster (MO) (8–19) in the Friday matches. This marked only the second time all season that the Maroons had won back-to-back matches, equaling their run from August 31st to September 1st when they trounced bottom-feeders Finlandia University (4–20) and Marian College (10–15).

Highlighting Friday’s 30–11, 30–16, 30–28 triumph over North Park was a 13-kill outing from third-year middle hitter Katie Volzer, tying a season high. Supplementing the effort were third-year outside hitter Kerry Dornfeld and fourth-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall, who added 12 and 11 kills, respectively.

Heading into their second match of the day, the Maroons carried momentum and capitalized, scoring a 30–17, 30–20, 30–23 win over the Griffins.

“We played together as a team really well. There was a lot of communication on the court and our defense really picked it up,” second-year libero Morgan Anderson said.

Third-year setter Nikki Boddicker continued her consistent play during the second contest, adding 26 more assists to her mark of 28 from the day’s earlier match. Complementing that effort, Volzer and first-year outside hitter Yayan Zhang tied for the team lead with nine kills each.

“It felt great to win two in a row. Our serve receive was unstoppable during both matches. We were crushing the ball. We took an early lead in both matches and never looked back,” said Volzer, who added to the cause with a team-high 13 digs.

“A lot of people stepped up to lead. For example, there were not many missed serves, which is a crucial element in volleyball. Also, our hitting was really good, we made a lot of balls that we might have previously hit out,” Anderson said.

Prospects looked excellent for a group that throughout the year had experienced its fair share of defeat and disappointments. Heading into championship Saturday with confidence in hand, the Maroons looked in good shape to make a run against tougher opponents.

When the level of competition increased, however, Chicago had no answers, first against Elmhurst (14–16), and then once more against formidable Wheaton (24–8).

Chicago came out fired up, taking the first game 30–28 in a comeback victory. Eventually, however, sloppy receiving and good play from the opponents caught up to the Maroons as Elmhurst took the match 30–23, 30–14, 30–16 in the next three games.

During the battle, Chicago attacked at just a .154 clip but exhibited bright spots in the form of Kendall’s 11 kills and Anderson’s 14 digs.

After the loss, the Maroons were pushed right back onto the court for their fourth match in two days, something to which they have become accustomed.

“ is exhausting, especially when we have been playing four matches almost every weekend. There are bound to be injuries, people are going to be tired, but we keep fighting. That’s what we do. We’re fighters,” said Volzer.

Fighting alone, unfortunately, was no match for the mighty Thunder. They rolled a weary Maroon squad, dancing to a 30–21, 30–22, 30–22 victory. Rookie outside hitter Elizabeth Kossnar did her best to stop the bleeding, generating a career-high 13 digs, but Wheaton’s serving prowess was too great to overcome.

Boddicker continued her stellar play, adding 27 sets to her two-day tournament total. Over the weekend, she collected 109 assists, along with 25 digs. For her efforts, she was named to the all-tournament team.

That nomination, as well as a third-place team finish, will be remembered as small highlights of an otherwise forgettable 2007 campaign.

Volzer, when asked to describe the season in one word, replied:

“Adversity…. This season, our team has endured so much with people leaving the team, while the remainder battles through injuries.” Volzer said.

Despite their hardships this year, the Maroons still have an outside shot at the UAA title.

Thus is the beauty of the conference-playoff format, in which first-place Wash U (21–5), and last-place Rochester (3–21) each receive equal representation in the bracket of eight teams vying for the conference championship.

That being said, the Maroons will have their work cut out for them. Coming into the tournament, Chicago is a pedestrian 1–6 in the UAA, with its lone win coming in a 3–0 blanking of the Yellowjackets on October 14.

“UAAs have been our priority all season and we are aiming for third place as we go into the weekend,” Volzer said.