A strong performance to close out the year was not quite strong enough for volleyball, a team plagued by a season of difficulties.
Against fierce opposition, Chicago finished its season this weekend at the UAA Conference Championships. Despite playing some of their best games this season, the Maroons (7–26, 1–10 UAA) fell in all four of their matchups. Hosted by Rochester, the tournament spanned two days, a considerable challenge to the small team.
“These were close, competitive games,” head coach Dorinda von Tersch said, “and the whole team was fired up, pushing their hardest. To be at such a high level of play and sustain it for four matches is really tough.”
The UAA Championships mark the end to what has been a tumultuous year for the team. The fall started with the squad pumped and ready to go, returning from their training trip in China. Performing well in their first few competitions, the Maroons were going strong. Then, the injuries set in. With almost half of the team crippled with aches and pains, the initial optimism was overshadowed by difficulty.
“The season didn’t go at all as planned,” von Tersch said. “All the injuries really impacted our flow.”
Among the victims struck down by injury were second-year setter Diandra Bucciarelli and third-year setter Nikki Boddicker, two key players for Chicago. Leading the squad with 11 double-doubles, 33 aces, and 286 digs, Bucciarelli also hit 10 kills in 14 separate matches this year.
Boddicker played as the team’s starting setter, the quarterback of the group on the court. She was one of the primary contributors to Chicago’s offense this season. Only 11 assists away from being the fourth player in the school’s history to make 800 in a season, Boddicker was truly a team powerhouse.
“Chicago has really never had a setter like Nikki for a while,” von Tersch said. “She really made us competitive.”
Relentless injuries to critical contributors like Bucciarelli and Boddicker forced the Maroons to remake their strategies. The younger players suddenly had to step up and fill the shoes of those older players taken out of commission.
“Ideally you don’t want freshmen to be forced into such a position,” von Tersch said. “It’s their learning year. We couldn’t do that this season.”
Averaging about four games per week, there was little time for rest and healing.
“One day we would have a game, the next we would watch a film and analyze how we did. But then right after that we would be right into four new matches,” von Tersch commented.
Given all of the obstacles in 2007, the squad looked to this weekend as a chance to end on a high note. The team played extremely hard but couldn’t come up with a win and finished eighth at the league championships. Bucciarelli was unable to travel with her teammates, forcing players to step it up even more. Unfortunately, the season had already taken too large a toll on a group that had already taken more than its fair share of hard knocks.
“At times we were really solid, others we were flat,” von Tersch said. “The team knows where it needs to grow in its abilities.”
Matched up against Emory and Brandeis on Friday, and NYU and Case on Saturday, Chicago faced mighty opposition. Its first game came against the eventual winner of the tournament. Losing the match 3–0 and dropping in straight sets to the tune of 30–15, 30–19, 30–15, the Maroons couldn’t muster much against the eighth-ranked Eagles. Fourth-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall and first-year outside hitter Elizabeth Kossnar gave a strong offensive showing with eight and seven kills, respectively. Boddicker performed similarly well with 20 set assists.
“Our real strength in the Emory game was our offense. We just needed to work on our defense,” von Tersch said.
That opening defeat to the Eagles set the tone for the weekend. Brandeis (25–10, 6–5) and NYU (18–18, 5–6) both shut out Chicago 3–0. The Maroons barely lost to Case in game four of the tournament as the Spartans (14–20, 4–7) squeezed out a 3–2 victory over the Maroons.
In a harrowing set of games against the Spartans, Kendall’s offensive push was joined by third-year outside hitter Kerry Dornfeld with 14 kills and third-year middle hitter Katie Volzer with 10. Setting was dominated by Boddicker, with a stunning 55 assists.
“The reality of the sport is you can play your absolute best and get to the last serve, mis-serve it, and lose,” von Tersch said.
The Maroons will only grow stronger as a result of this season. With younger players thrust into the action this fall, the team looks to have an even more experienced and talented group return for 2008. The first- and second-years will have to step it up again, but next year they’ll be starting from a whole new level.
“I commend them for their fight and stamina, but we need to get healthy and rested for the spring,” von Tersch said on the season. “We have a great upcoming class with lots of talent, and next year promises to be a good one.”