[img id="80793" align="alignleft"] The volleyball team hit a speed bump on its road to revive a once-struggling program when the Maroons dropped a five-set marathon to IIT Wednesday night.
Fresh off a 2–1 weekend at the first of two UAA Round Robins this year, Chicago (16–8) traveled to IIT (12–11) for an inter-league battle, which the NAIA representatives took by a score of 25–16, 23–25, 25–17, 18–25, 15–11.
“I never like to say I’m OK with a loss, but if we take a loss, I’d rather we take a loss now, when we’re in the position we’re in,” head coach Vanessa Walby said.
On the eve of a 10-day break, the South Siders struggled with serve-receiving and passing early on Wednesday night, allowing IIT to take the first set by a safe margin.
IIT used aggressive service and well disguised passing throughout the match, along with an outside attack that proved difficult for the Maroons early on. Fourth-year outside hitter Carlie Douglas tallied 16 kills overall, as lapses in communication contributed to blocking problems for Chicago in the first set.
“We came out a little bit slow,” Walby said. “As the game went on, we got a lot better at both [focus and ball control].”
The Maroons struck back in the second, as they have done consistently this year. Through 22 games, Chicago has lost the second set just six times.
“The second set is the crucial one because either it’s tied or you’re in a big hole,” Walby said.
The coach pointed to the team’s fourth-year veterans, middle blockers Kerry Dornfeld and Katie Volzer, as the impetus for Chicago’s comeback in the narrow 25–23 win in the second set. Volzer notched the 750th kill of her career, but it was the Maroons’ blocking that presented the biggest challenge for IIT.
“Because of how well we played defense, that kept us in the game as long as we did,” Walby said.
With both teams struggling to move the ball consistently, the Scarlet Hawks took the third set 25–17. Again, however, Chicago refocused in the fourth set, with Volzer once more creating momentum for the South Siders.
“Katie Volzer started off the fourth game with an incredible hit,” first-year outside hitter Isis Smalls said. “[That play] gave us a spark when we were down in the game.”
Rallying to a fifth set, Chicago looked to make it 3–0 on the season for five-set games. The Maroons boast five-set wins over Dominican and NYU already this year.
However, Chicago could not hold on to the momentum, as IIT’s aggressive play throughout the game finally overwhelmed the Maroons, giving IIT the win 15–11.
“The fifth game is kind of a crap shoot. It’s all who’s going to make less errors—volleyball’s a game of mistakes anyway,” Walby said. “Whoever wants to battle is usually the team that’s going to win.”
Smalls and second-year outside hitter Elizabeth Kossnar led Chicago with 10 kills each, while Volzer chipped in nine. Fourth-year setter Nikki Boddicker also passed 2,700 career assists, with 42 on the night.
“It’s always tough to experience losses like this, but we just have to learn from it,” Smalls said. “This game was a reminder that we need consistency and communication in order to be successful in the rest of season.”
The Maroons now head into a long break with another eight days until their next match, a crucial rest period for a team that has played four games in the span of seven days.
After the respite, the Maroons will hit the road again, this time heading for Brandeis and the final UAA Round Robin, an important test for this young team.
Washington University (15–4, 3–0 UAA) highlights that weekend for the South Siders, as the fourth-ranked Bears will present one of Chicago’s toughest tests of the season.