October 27, 2006

Errors taint volleyball's last home stand

A boisterous home crowd and a pair of strong starts couldn’t bring volleyball a win in its final two appearances of the year at Ratner.

Playing for the last time before next weekend’s UAA tournament, the Maroons (4–26) fell 26–30, 30–23, 30–14, 30–24 to Wheaton (16–9) Tuesday and blew a first-game lead against sixth-ranked Carthage (24–2) Wednesday before falling 30–25, 30–22, and 30–20. The squad’s hot starts to both matches were not enough for Chicago, who will enter the season’s final stretch riding a nine-match losing streak.

“Honestly, I was a little disappointed,” head coach Dorinda von Tersch said. “Offensively, we weren’t hard and aggressive, and we weren’t attacking as well as we traditionally have been. Defensively, we were not blocking strongly, but I was pleased with our backcourt play.”

Despite coming off two idle weeks since a winless showing at the UAA Round Robin, the Maroons came out strong against the Thunder on Tuesday. The team rarely trailed in an exciting first game that saw Chicago’s frontcourt successfully fend off Wheaton’s offense in a series of fierce rallies at the net. Game two remained close for the first 10 points, until the Thunder built a five-point lead that they refused to relinquish.

Any chance of a Cinderella-story victory dissipated entirely in game three, as a string of errors and a crumbling defense left Chicago defeated by a 16-point margin. The Maroons narrowed the spread in game four, but a tight defense on the Thunder’s part sealed the deal. Third-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall led the offense with a 10-kill match, while first-year libero Liz Sugden held up the backcourt with 14 digs.

Facing Carthage in Wednesday’s home finale, the Maroons fought to finish at home with a win. Chicago treated their strong crowd to endless rallies yet failed to come out on top. The Lady Reds proved too stiff of a challenge, unleashing a relentless frontcourt attack that wore down Chicago’s defense as the night went on. In game one, thanks to strong offensive play led by second-year outside hitter Kate Volzer, (team-high 10 kills), the squad managed to build a six-point lead, noticeably jarring their initially confident opponents.

After collecting themselves with two nearly back-to-back timeouts, the Lady Reds surged from behind in a dramatic narrow victory. Unable to keep pace with Carthage’s quick and relentless offense, the Maroons trailed through all of games two and three, watching their home season end quietly in defeat. Making her final home appearance for the South Siders, fourth-year setter Nikki Sindy made a team-high 16 assists, bringing her all-time school record to 3,035.

“I wanted the girls to see what it’s like to go up against these nationally-ranked teams, and the thing that has been disappointing is that it’s taken the team longer to get the focus and concentration to play consistently,” von Tersch said. “With teams like Carthage, when you have a six-point lead like we did, you’ve got to run with it, you’ve got to close it. We get comfortable, we get complacent, and we don’t close.”

The Maroons will head to Pittsburgh in two weeks, finishing their season at the UAA Championships November 3 and 4. Seeded seventh, the team will face 12th-ranked Emory (22–8), 20th-ranked NYU (26–4), and Brandeis (13–14).

“The UAAs are going to be really tough,” said von Tersch. “Earlier in the year, we had Rochester beat and then gave it to them, we had Brandeis beat and then gave it to them. We played very competitively against NYU and then gave it to them as well. So we have a lot of potential, maybe even to place third or fourth, but it’s going to come down to being consistent and not giving up points on errors.”