November 9, 2004

Volleyball spiked at UAAs

Women's volleyball concluded its season with a disappointing sixth place finish at UAA championships last weekend, failing to qualify for NCAA regionals.

The Maroons (20-14, 4-8) lost their opening two matches against Carnegie Mellon and Emory on the tournament's opening day, but rallied back to defeat Case Western and Brandeis before falling to Rochester University to close the weekend. Though Chicago's tournament finish was the same sixth place they finished in the UAA standings, the team expected better.

"I think that a sixth place finish is very unsatisfying," third-year captain and outside hitter Erica Pettke said. "We should have without a doubt beaten Rochester and secured the fifth place spot within the conference."

In the opening match, the Maroons were defeated by Carnegie 3-1. First-year Allison Mell, second-year Nikki Sindy, and Pettke all registered double-digit kills with 10, 13, and 11 respectively, but their spectacular offensive performance failed to secure victory for the Maroons, who fell to the Tartans for the second time this season.

Third-year captain and libero Tracie Kenyon added 17 digs to break her previous school record of 532. Also Chicago's career leader (1636), she finished the season with 625.

Volleyball's woes continued later that day, as Chicago was swept by eventual runner-up Emory. The hometown Eagles dominated from the start, winning 30-13, 30-28, and 30-13. No Maroons registered double-digit kills, and the team combined for a dismal .176 team hit percentage.

The Maroons bounced back in the final match of pool play, defeating Case 30-24, 24-30, 30-22, 20-30, 15-13. Mell and Pettke once again led the attack with 24 and 14 kills, while Kenyon and third-year Rose Kulczycki anchored the defense with 28 and 22 digs, respectively.

"Though it was a long and physically demanding tournament we should have closed out games against Rochester and even Carnegie Mellon," Pettke said. "We had both teams beat and just could not close the matches."

The second and final day play started off on a high note for the Maroons with a hotly contested 30-28, 20-30, 20-30, 34-32, 15-9 victory over Brandeis. The win marked the second time in the past month that the Maroons have defeated the Judges, but unlike the three-game sweep in their last meeting, the Maroons had to rally from behind. Pettke once again led the offense with 19 kills, while Kenyon led the defense with 28 digs. First-year Erin O'Neill's two solo blocks gave her the school record, finishing with 73 this season.

That victory positioned Chicago against Rochester or the UAA's fifth-place match. Chicago swept Rochester 3-0 in their last meeting at Ratner, but with both teams having nothing left to lose, things were different this time around. Despite Chicago taking a two-games-to-one lead, the Yellowjackets charged back for the win 30-20, 25-30, 30-32, 30-23, 15-8.

"It was disappointing that we took both Brandeis and Rochester to 5 games," said Pettke, "they are much weaker teams than we are physically and skill-wise, so these games were frustrating, if anything."

Ultimately, the Maroons finished off their season with an impressive overall record of 20-14, significantly better than last year's 7-29 finish and their best since 1996.

"Overall this season has been a step forward from last year's season," said Pettke. "It has allowed us to define our weaknesses and construct goals for offseason training, spring season, and the next traditional season. We are happy to be ending with a winning record but definitely not satisfied."