After their recent loss to #18 Elmhurst College, the women's volleyball team is a dismal 6-17 overall, 2-5 in UAA conference games.
The Maroons lost to a talented team in Elmhurst, which improved its record to 22-5 with the victory. In the loss, Katie Menhover led the team with seven kills.
But Chicago's won-lost record is extremely misleading. Led by their second year coach, Dorinda von Tersch, the team has eight first-years in a squad of 14 players, only two of whom are fourth-years.
This season has been a rebuilding year, a kaleidoscope of trial and error, inexperience versus experience, a season of what von Tersch describes as, "bringing in [new] players and building a tradition." Despite losing 17 games, the Maroons have improved from last year's 5-24 record.
"There is a lot of progress, improvements from individuals. We still need to work on closing matches but we're playing aggressively. This team is better than last year's," said von Tersch.
The team has focused on building around nucleus of extremely talented first-years: Tracie Kenyon, Erica Pettke, and Katie Meinhover. Tracie has already bested her own school record of digs with 35, collecting 18 from the last game. Meinhover has stepped in for the last couple of matches.
Despite their record, Chicago's outlook couldn't be any more promising. After this season, the team will have only lost two fourth-years, Jeannie Kim and Cara Nelson. von Tersch will have 11 pliable underclassmen to develop and drill into playing as a more competitive, experienced team. If she can duplicate this year's success in recruiting talented first-years next season, she will have her pick of more than a brimming pool of youth and talent.
"Next year's class appears to be as promising, or even more, than this year's first-years. We'll be able to feed off on the success of this first-year class to bring them in," said von Tersch.
The Maroons still have the season to finish; the team has a stretch of five road games and one home game against Illinois Tech wedged in between.
If the team can finish the season strong like last year, when they won their last three games, and keep most of their young squad intact, there is much to be excited and optimistic about next season. The Maroons are a young and still-improving team with a bright future; in addition to its strong crop of first-years, the team has a sophomore leader in Rebecca Schutte who should be able to help her teammates realize their potential.
When asked what she thought her team's chances were against Illinois Tech, to whom the Maroons have already lost a close match earlier in the season, von Tersch answered with confidence.
"We're going to beat them. We're at home. We beat them last year in five games. It was their homecoming last time and they had the obvious home court advantage. But we're home now and I know that we'll beat them."