SPORTS

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November 1, 2007

Volleyball has clean slate for UAA championships

As the volleyball team rounds out its disappointing season, it looks to start fresh this weekend and close out the year in style.

The Maroons travel to Rochester, New York tomorrow to compete in the UAA Championships, their last contest of the season.

Heading into the championships, the Maroons have racked up a 7–22 record, earning a sixth-place seeding among the seven UAA teams.

Leading the conference are Wash U and Emory, boasting 20–4 and 30–6 records, respectively. Although few teams are likely to contend with these two powerhouses, the competition for third place should be close.

“We would like to place third this weekend,” third-year middle hitter Kerry Dornfeld said. “We want to focus on playing consistently and aggressively, as well as our mental toughness.”

High on the team’s radar are NYU and Brandeis, whom they will face in their second and third matches.

“We’ve had close games against them earlier in the season during Round Robin play, and we can definitely beat them if we play well,” said Dornfeld.

Chicago had a rough time in UAA competition this year, with its lone win coming against Rochester on October 14. However, the Maroons were able to contend with fifth-seeded NYU (16–16) in their match on October 13. They lost in a close five sets, 24­–30, 30–21, 27–30, 30–27, 12–15. Earlier that day, they were less fortunate against Brandeis, losing in four sets, 30–26, 26–30, 22–30, 20–30.

Aside from Wash U and Emory, the majority of UAA teams hold similar records within the conference. Third- and fourth-seeded Brandeis and Carnegie Mellon are 4–3, while Case and NYU are 3–4. The format of the UAA Championships does not take into account past records; higher-seeded teams, apart from initially facing weaker opponents, do not have any advantage in reaching the finals.

Opening the tournament today with an early-morning matchup against Emory, the team will then face Brandeis, followed by NYU, and then play a fourth game for either first, third, fifth, or seventh place. In order to reach the third-place game, Chicago can afford only one loss in the first round, presumably to second-ranked Emory.

The UAA Championships will give the team an opportunity to rebound from a year that failed to meet preseason expectations of marked improvement on last year’s effort. Roster difficulties, including a slew of injuries and the loss of several players, contributed to a rough season in which the Maroons won only seven games and fell into a nine-game losing streak in September.

Recently, the team has been hit by the loss of second-year middle hitter Diandra Bucciarelli, an offensive force who injured her knee in last week’s loss to Illinois Tech. Despite the absence of Bucciarelli, who leads the team in double-doubles with 11 this season, the Maroons were able to split their four games last weekend, a much better outcome than expected.

Despite the lows, there have been high points for the team this year, most notably the outstanding play of fourth-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall. Kendall racked up enough blocks this year to rise to the top of the all-time career chart and enough kills to place third in that category.

Last weekend was also a bright spot in the season as the Maroons took third place in the Elmhurst Invitational, scorching their first two opponents. North Park and Westminster were no match for Chicago’s impressive offense, losing 30–11, 30–16, 30–28, and 30–17, 30–20, 30–23, respectively.

The team managed to bounce back from last week’s injury in an impressive weekend performance, and this weekend will also be a true test of the team’s ability to bounce back from the hardships of this season. With any luck, the pieces will come together, and the Maroons can end their season on a high note.