September 30, 2007

Growing disabled list hampers opportunity for once-hopeful squad

As if competing in the top-heavy UAA wasn’t enough, volleyball (3-10) faces extra court challenges this season with injuries forcing changes to the lineup and putting a hold on some of the team’s top talent.

When the Maroons returned from a preseason tour in China, head coach Dorinda von Tersch had every reason to be optimistic about the year. Thirty-two hours after landing back in Chicago the squad returned to action, jetlagged and tired but still displaying its potential. Then, one after another, major injuries hit the team, pushing starters to the sidelines or limiting their action in games and putting pressure on rookies to pick up some of the slack.

The juggling of positions has been particularly upsetting to the Maroons’ passing game. Fourth-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall and second-year outside hitter Diandra Bucciarelli have stepped up as the keystones of the squad’s offense with 3.67 and 2.85 kills per game. They’d likely be even more productive at the net if the Maroons could run the game that they want to, but injury control has prevented them from putting their best foot forward.

And it isn’t run-of-the-mill ankle sprains inflecting the team, either. A dislocated shoulder and a stress fracture in the foot have been plaguing third-years Nikki Boddicker and Katie Volzer. First-year Elizabeth Kossnar and second-year transfer Morgan Anderson have helped fill in the holes, making the adjustment to Chicago’s strategies. Kossnar proved to be an aggressive force and Anderson has shifted around to three different positions, providing impressive utility play.

After using the off-season to master the offensive and defensive approach developed over the past six years, the setbacks from injuries are particularly irksome for a team that seemed to be on the brink of rising a step or two in the UAA.

Making a move within the league would take a Maroon squad at full strength. Dominated by fourth-ranked Emory (13-3) and the eight-time NCAA champs, seventh-ranked Wash U (8-4), conference rankings have been all but set in stone the past few years. If Chicago can get healthy for the end of the season and still manage to make a statement at the Round Robins, it will speak volumes of the talent that the squad had going into the 2007 campaign.

Spotlight on Koryn Kendall

In her third season as a captain, volleyball’s lone senior is truly the heart and soul of this squad. She’s the playmaker at the net, leading Chicago in kills per game (3.67) and tying for second in serving aces per game (0.21). Beyond that, the veteran is one of the most vocal leaders among Maroons that are very team-first oriented.

“Talk to the third-years, and they’ll say, ‘We’re playing for Koryn,’” said head coach Dorinda von Tersch. “They want to give her a great senior year.”