October 16, 2007

UAA can't contain volleyball's Kendall

This hasn’t been the easiest year for volleyball. The injury bug on top of a tough schedule long ago cooled off the team’s high hopes from the start of the season, but that hasn’t slowed down fourth-year middle-hitter Koryn Kendall.

Ever since opening day of 2007, when she clubbed 21 kills to help propel the Maroons to a split against St. Norbert, Kendall has been on top of her game every day. The squad’s sole senior, she has been steadily climbing the career record charts all fall and finally broke through to the top as Chicago (5–18, 1–6) went 1–3 at the second UAA Round Robin this weekend. Kendall is now the sole possessor of the record for blocks with 365, and she cracked the 1,000-kills plateau that’s been reached by only three other Maroons.

“I would not be the player I am today without my team,” Kendall said. “I have a great group of girls supporting me. Without their efforts, I wouldn’t even get the chance to get the kill.”

Going into Cleveland to face Brandeis (16–5, 2–2), NYU (14–13, 3–2), Emory (22–5, 6–1), and Rochester (15–15, 0–7), Kendall needed six blocks to unseat Jeannie Kim (1999–2002) and her mark of 361. Twenty-six more kills and she would join an elite group of South Siders at the 1,000 benchmark, including former teammates Katie Meinhover (1,245 kills from 2002–2005) and Erica Pettke (1,087 from 2002–2005).

The Napa, CA native got right down to business in the opening match against the Judges.

Errors have been a perennial problem for the Maroons, who handed points over to opponents that their offense can’t make up. Saturday morning, though, Kendall played a stretch of flawless volleyball, pounding 11 kills in 21 attempts without an error. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to help Chicago rule out the Judges, who came back after dropping the first set 30–26 to take the match 30–26, 30–22, 30–20.

After setting the pace against Brandeis, Kendall managed to keep it up through a full five-set battle against NYU, a 3–0 sweep by sixth-ranked Emory, and the squad’s 3–0 blanking of Rochester. Over the four matches she averaged 3.73 kills per game and hit at a .564 clip while posting double digits in kills and recording at least a .515 attack percentage in each of the contests.

While the entire tournament marked a career weekend for Kendall, the biggest moment may have come in the showdown with the Eagles. Emory’s opponents usually have a tough time of finding ways to make the ball land for a point, as the Eagles come up with 15.9 digs per game. Kendall, with the help of her teammates, discovered how to cut through this strong defense and converted 10 kills on 15 attempts with just one error for a .600 attack percentage.

“They are quick and strong and there isn’t much weakness in their game,” Kendall said. “I was able to do well because my teammates did their jobs well. We had good passes and great sets. We have a strong offense which opens up opportunities for us all to get kills because opponents have a hard time reading our plays.”

Although Kendall’s knockout performance made up the big news of the weekend, some younger Maroons also brought their best stuff with them to Cleveland. Third-year setter Nikki Boddicker and second-year outside hitter Diandra Bucciarelli both delivered big blows against NYU.

Smacking 24 kills and diving for 29 digs, Bucciarelli notched Chicago’s first 20–20 of the year. Far from petering out for the rest of the weekend, she turned in two more double-doubles to push her season total up to 10.

Helping to set up Bucciarelli’s offensive surge against the Violets, Boddicker got under the ball for 58 assists, a new career mark for a single match. She almost tied the new standard the next day when she collected 55 assists in the squad’s 30–28, 37–35, 30–18 victory over Rochester.

“Nikki is the glue of our team so to speak. She holds us together and always gives her best to make the team look good,” Kendall said. “Setters don’t always get a lot of credit, but she is one of the main reasons our offense is so strong.”

Pulling out the win over the Yellowjackets gave the Maroons their first league win and the seventh seed for the UAA Championships, hosted November 2–3 by Rochester. Before heading out to New York, the team has its last home game of the season this Thursday against Lake Forest (6–15).