The women's volleyball team (7-25) will finish its season today and tomorrow at the University Athletic Association championships at New York University.
Chicago will first play matches against second-ranked Washington University, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the University of Rochester to determine seeding for the single-elimination round. The top two teams from each pool play for first through fourth place in the league, and the remaining teams play for fifth through eighth.
The Maroons are aiming for a finish as high as fourth in the league, but first, they will have to go through teams like NYU and Emory that are ranked 10th and 12th in Division III, respectively.
"We have a realistic chance to bracket up," said Maroon head coach Dorinda von Tersch.
"Washington University is one of the best teams in the country, and they will definitely win our pool. We've beaten Rochester before, so the key match should be Friday's against Carnegie-Mellon. If we can win both of those matches, we finish no worse than fourth," von Tersch said.
The team lost a close match against Carnegie-Mellon on October 4, a loss von Tersch labeled as "one we'd like back."
"The losses to Carnegie-Mellon and Brandeis were tough. Against CMU, our starting setter Nikki Sindy was out, and we've beaten those teams in previous years," von Tersch said. "Against teams like Washington, the match is just at a different level, but it was disappointing not to be able to put those opponents away."
A fourth place finish would be the highest for the Maroons since finishing third in the league in 1996.
The Maroon's 1-6 record against UAA teams will not be a factor during tournament, according to von Tersch.
"When it comes down to the championship, anybody can win. It becomes less about the skills you have and more about what you bring to the court emotionally. If you're ready, it could be anybody's game," she said.
According to von Tersch, Chicago will not be looking to any one player to take charge during the tournament but will instead try to raise its game as a team.
"Everyone really has to step it up for this weekend," von Tersch said. "We can't point to just one person to lead us now, because everyone has had streaks of great play. It's simply a matter of having everyone bring it to the table at the same time. Rather than one person carrying the team, we're looking for everyone to bring their A-game."
However, she cited the return of injured players, most notably second-year co-captains Erica Pettke and Tracie Kenyon, as huge lifts for the team in recent weeks. Kenyon is one of the best defenders in the league, leading the UAA in digs, while Pettke had 14 kills and 16 digs in the home finale against Lake Forest. Other statistical leaders include Emma Hamilton, who leads the league in blocks.
"The fact is, we lost some of our key players. With them back, we have a different demeanor on the court. They bring their confidence to the game, and other players feed off of that. With them, we've got that mental edge. We lose that uncertainty of who's playing the ball?'" von Tersch said.
The team has been beset by injuries this season. This weekend will be among the few periods of the fall that every player on the roster is available, though several players will still be wearing shin splints.
Saturday's 3-1 victory over Lake Forest (30-22, 30-21, 25-30, 30-28) provided a much-needed morale boost for the struggling Maroons. The team recently lost to Lake Forest in five games at the Lake Forest Invite on October 11, and players were elated to get revenge.
"That was the biggest win we've had since UAA play began," von Tersch said. "The girls were just not going to let themselves lose."
Since the first weekend of UAA play on October 3 and 4, the team was 1-2 at the Lake Forest Invite, fell twice to Illinois Tech and once to Elmhurst, and was 1-3 in the second round-robin weekend, including a victory over the University of Rochester and a narrow 30-20, 27-30, 28-30, 28-30 loss to Case Western Reserve.