October 10, 2006

Volleyball no match for Titans

It was different opponents but the same old story for volleyball. Matching up once more against tough competition, the Maroons’ mental errors overshadowed otherwise strong performances and handed victory over to the other side of the net.

In the latest chapter of the squad’s grueling regular season slate, Chicago (4–19) faced their eighth nationally ranked opponent of the season and dropped both of their matches at the Lake Forest Quadrangular Saturday. Strong performances on the right side and strict execution of game strategy were not enough for the Maroons as they went down in straight sets against seventh-ranked UW–Oshkosh (21–3) and then fell to NAIA squad Judson College (13–8) in four close sets.

By far the most vexing part of the South Siders’ weekend was their tendency to match the opposition’s skill level only to then strike the final nail in their own coffin. Errors forked over free points to Oshkosh, allowing the Titans to neatly put away a 30–20, 30–13, 30–21 win while a stingy but far less intimidating Judson pulled out a hard fought 24–30, 30–28, 30–25, 30–24 showdown.

“The majority of the teams we have played this season are nationally ranked,” third-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall said. “UW–Oshkosh was no exception and Judson, while NAIA, was still a competitive team. Both are comparable to the teams we will be playing this weekend in the UAA Round Robin.”

Heading onto the court against Oshkosh, the Maroons successfully stuck to a game plan that tempered the dangerous attacks of third-year middle hitter Leah Rosenbaum. Using the same cluster block that worked with varying degrees of effectiveness against 15th-ranked NYU (22–3), 9th-ranked Central (18–6), and 24th-ranked Coe (13–4), the squad effectively stopped Rosenbaum from working her angles. Chicago’s right side led by first-year Anika Heavener with six blocks provided consistent defense throughout the match.

“We have been executing really well on the right half of the court and running the right side attack,” head coach Dorinda von Tersch said. “It’s a hard attack to defend naturally because the defense doesn’t have the ability to read the shoulders of the hitter as well.”

In the end, taking out the Titan’s top player, a valiant effort on the right side, and a team-high six kills from second-year outside hitter Katie Given couldn’t make up for the handling errors, double contacts, and balls hit out of bounds that allowed Oshkosh to rack up the points.

“A team like that is not going to make those kinds of errors to give you the window of opportunity to get back in,” von Tersch said. “If you give those points up, they’re gone.”

For a while it looked like the Maroons would bounce back from the day’s opening loss when they claimed the first set 30–24 with Judson. The Eagles fought back and took the next three from Chicago, barely managing to stay ahead in the high-scoring contests.

“Hands down we were a stronger team. What hurts us in the end was we hurt ourselves,” von Tersch said.

The rookie Heavener found herself right in the middle of the action once again, this time taking care of business offensively with 14 kills during the match. Giving her a hand was fourth-year setter Nikki Sindy who, with 24 assists, pushed her career mark to 2,896. The total moved her into sole possession of first place on the school’s all-time list.

Hoping for a quick turnaround from their weekend results, the squad suits up again today to take on Lake Forest (10–11) in the final tune-up before hosting the UAA Round Robin this weekend.

“This is a team that we have a strong rivalry with,” von Tersch said. “Whether we play here or at Lake Forest, it has been a five-game match over two hours long. I told the team that I want to win, but in three.”

It will be a grinding week of practice for the Maroons after the date with the Foresters. The team needs to be in top form to avoid being wiped out on its home court when it faces some of the nation’s top teams in the second bout of league play.

“It’s going to be an exciting weekend, and I’m really expecting the team to step up and perform well,” said von Tersch.