October 24, 2004

Volleyball blocked at round robin

Following the team's biggest upset in recent years and a five-match winning streak, Chicago's volleyball squad ended the weekend after losing three of four matches at the second UAA round robin. Held at Ratner, the tournament marked the last regular season UAA play, and provided Chicago with an opportunity to improve upon their previous 1-2 conference record.

"We had some shining moments in the four matches," said third-year left-side hitter Katie Meinhover, who had 37 kills and 33 digs on the weekend. "Granted, the losses are tough, but we took a great match in three games against Rochester and performed well against the defending national champions, Washington University."

Lacking the services of third-year captain and libero Tracie Kenyon, and forced to start three talented but inexperienced first-years, the Maroons failed to perform consistently in the face of tough competition.

On Saturday, Chicago won its first game against Carnegie Mellon (19-3, 5-2 through Monday), but proceeded to lose the next three, ultimately losing 30-22, 21-30, 24-30, 16-30. First-year Erin O'Neil led the attack with 10 kills, while first-year Allison Mell—replacing Kenyon—anchored the defense with 22 digs.

The Maroons bounced back in the afternoon session with a decisive sweep over Rochester. Sweeping the three games, 30-28, 30-26, 31-29, the volleyball team utilized a balanced attack led by Meinhover and third-year right-side hitter Erica Pettke's 22 combined kills.

"The tournament is the toughest competition that we will see all year long," Meinhover said. "It is what we work towards everyday at practice and it shows in that we are able to compete with the excellent level of play brought forth by the talented UAA athletes and programs."

During the Sunday morning session, the Maroons were upset by Case Western (11-17, 2-5), which entered the tournament with no UAA victories. Meinhover once again preformed well at both ends of the court, finishing with team highs of 14 kills and 9 digs.

"[The victory by Case] goes to show our conference's competitive nature and that anyone can come out and win at any time," Meinhover said.

Sunday afternoon brought forth the biggest challenge, as the Maroons faced conference leader, sixth-ranked Washington University—last year's defending national champions who handed first-ranked NYU its first loss of 2004 on Saturday.

The Maroons fought valiantly in game one, barely losing 28-30 in a back-and-forth affair. After that, however, the strength and experience of the Bears (19-4, 7-0) overwhelmed Chicago's defense, sweeping the Maroons 19-30, 23-30 in the last two. Wash U finished the tournament without losing a single game.

The Maroons now stand in a three-way with fifth-place Case and Brandies in the newest UAA standings. Yet because of the Maroons' 7-15 game record, Rochester (8-15 game record) earned fifth seed for the postseason UAA championships, with Chicago earning sixth. Despite the poor conference record, volleyball still holds an impressive 16-10 overall record.

The Maroons have three regular-season road matches remaining: Concordia, Elmhurst, and Aurora. They then conclude their season at conference championships in Atlanta, starting November 5. Though coming off a disappointing weekend, volleyball's hopes remain high.

"We have expectations to go into the UAA Championships with a 3-0 record for the remainder of our games," Meinhover said. "We know what to look for in players and know what to prepare for in the game. We know that, with this squad, we can take anyone."