SPORTS

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October 13, 2009

Field Notes: Volleyball warms up for round robin two, and Oberlin sees double

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Scouting D-III competition online can be a trial. Besides box scores and exuberant press releases, which give you half the story when you’re lucky, scant information is available on most teams and it’s hard to get a definitive read on coming opponents.

Still, you figure some things can be predicted. Case in point, going into the Gargoyle Classic, the six-team volleyball get-together at Ratner this past weekend, I though it fair to pick the Golden Knights of Clarkson over the Beavers of Buena Vista in the teams’ Saturday match. Clarkson (15–3 going into the Classic) had gotten most of those wins in straight sets, and Buena Vista (1–18, 0–18 after September 4), well, they did have a straight-sets win as well.

Straightforward as the match was on paper, the Knights looked more gilded than golden on the court, and the Beavers made off, heads held high, with just their second win of the year.

The Maroons, for their part, needed only 14 sets to lock up their four weekend matches, and they beat both Clarkson and Buena Vista soundly. Wins are always good, but these wins were a testament not only to Chicago’s growing talent, but to the disparity that exists among the 400 teams playing D-III volleyball.

Next weekend, instead of nearly-winless Buena Vista and the Clarkson squad even the Beavers beat, it’ll be fifth-ranked Wash U and Case and Brandeis, and yet further reminders of how much deeper the talent runs in the UAA than it does in most of DIII. This weekend was a success, but it’s the tougher conference games by which the Maroons measure their progress.

To that end, execution and confidence (which can go hand-in-hand) are two areas first-year Sam Brown said Chicago should focus on to compete at the top of the UAA.

“I think that our team will improve dramatically when everyone has the strong mentality that we can and will win every time we step onto the court,” Brown said. “We are slowly getting there, and this weekend was very successful for us.”

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Back home in Hyde Park this weekend, we didn’t get to see football’s three-touchdown win over Oberlin, but it looked good in the box score. All-time good, even, for third-year wide receiver Clay Wolff.

Or all-modern era, at least. Wolff notched the neapolitan of football—a touchdown running, throwing, and catching—on Saturday, and he’s the only Maroon to do so since the revival of Chicago football in 1969.

Wolff picked up part one, the passing touchdown, on Chicago’s first snap on offense. With the Maroons starting from their own 36, offensive coordinator Jeff Sokol called for a double-reverse. The behind-the-line trickeration ended with the ball in Wolff’s hands and first-year wide receiver D Brizzolara, who first feinted to block the safety, running clear and free, 40 yards down field.

Wolff’s pass connected with Brizzolara and Chicago went up 7–0 almost as soon as they had started.

Amidst the offensive displays, it’s easy to overlook defense, but this was a day where Chicago impressed going both ways. As head coach Dick Maloney pointed out, Oberlin frequently had good field position—two drives started on the Chicago 24, and seven others within 10 yards of midfield—but the Midwayites held them to only three scoring drives all day. And both drives that began on the Chicago 24 lost yardage, then ended on downs.

So far as I can see, the only drawback to a day like the Maroons had in Ohio is that it might leave the Chicago faithful feeling gypped. Not only are the Maroons in the middle of a month-long stretch without a home game, but they’re pulling out the fireworks on the road.

To head off any such feelings, and to whet the fans’ appetites, I asked Maloney if he would guarantee, in the Maroon’s vaunted pages, that the offense’s first play against Denison, their next opponent at Stagg, would once again be a double-reverse.

“You never know,” Maloney said, laughing.

I guess I’m not an authority on matters of football—I only recently learned that the Cover Two isn’t a brand of athletic supporter—so I won’t presume to give the coach advice. But I have watched enough to know that “double your reverse, triple your fun” is a good rule of thumb, so I’m hopeful Maloney and his staff leave that option open.