November 8, 2005

Volleyball goes quietly to end season

Despite a disappointing weekend at the UAA championships, volleyball ended its season with a hopeful look to the future.

The Maroons (12–23, 3–8 UAA) dropped four matches over two days en route to a seventh-place finish at the UAA championships in Boston. Chicago fell to Wash U 0-3, Carnegie Mellon 1-3, and Case 2-3 in the first round on Friday. In Saturday’s consolation round, the Maroons fell to Rochester 0-3. After entering the weekend with high expectations, Chicago finished tied for seventh-place with their hapless Brandeis hosts.

The Maroons kicked off their tournament as heavy underdogs against top-ranked Wash U, winners of the last 16 UAA titles and 29 straight matches to open. Chicago kept the score relatively close in the first set before falling 30–20. After that it was all Wash U, as the Bears rattled off 30–17 and 30–14 victories in the next two games to close out the match.

With an all-time record of 0–26 against the defending champs, expectations were low for the Wash U contest. The Maroons entered their next match, against Carnegie Mellon (19–18, 6–6 UAA), with higher hopes and much more on the line. In the first meeting between the two teams in October, Chicago jumped ahead early and took the first game, before fading down the stretch to lose in four games. In the rematch Saturday, needing a victory to keep their chances for a top-four finish in the tournament alive, Chicago stormed out of the gate to win the first game 22–30. However, the Maroons fell flat after that and dropped the final three games by scores of 30–21, 30–23, and 30–21.

“In the first game we came out extremely strong and took them easily,” fourth-year right-side hitter Erica Pettke said. “The next three games, we lost the momentum and were not able to turn plays around fast enough.”

If Chicago’s performance against Carnegie Mellon was a disappointment, the Maroons’ effort in the day’s finale against Case was downright shocking. The Spartans entered the contest without a win in league play, and with just three wins on the year. None of this mattered on Friday, as Chicago found itself on the losing end of a back-and-forth battle. The Maroons took the first game in decisive fashion by a margin of 19–30; the Spartans (5–31, 2–10 UAA) took two of the next three sets and then won the tiebreaker 15–12. Second-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall led Chicago with 16 kills, while Pettke chipped in with 11. The co-captain attributed the team’s disappointing performance to the emotional letdown following the loss to Carnegie Mellon.

“We had trained the past two weeks to beat CMU and when that didn’t happen, we lost a lot of our steam,” Pettke said. “We put a lot of emotional energy into that match.”

Relegated to the consolation bracket after their 0–3 showing on Friday, the Maroons could salvage, at best, a fifth-place finish with two wins on Saturday. Rochester (24–14, 5–7 UAA) had other plans, capturing the first two games and winning a close fourth to end the Maroons’ season.

“I feel the season’s fatigue set in too soon. It was a huge disappointment,” Meinhover said.

Although their season came to a disappointing end, Chicago has many positives to take away from this year. With 1,245 and 1,087 kills respectively, Meinhover and Pettke moved into first and second place on the school’s all-time list for career kills.

While the contributions of these seniors will be missed, the Maroons’ young nucleus made great strides over the course of the season. With a starting lineup that featured three first-years and a second-year, the team took their lumps with the expectation that they will be returning the favor to their opponents in future seasons.

“They were able to step into almost any situation on the court, and be aggressive, confident and excited,” Meinhover said of her young teammates. “That is a huge thing for any freshman player—for that reason, they have a very bright next couple of years.”

Pettke predicted that the best is yet to come for the program.

“The dedication and constant growth and improvement of this program is a true testament to Coach von Tersch and each member of the team. I anticipate that Chicago Volleyball will make a defining statement next year.”