The first few weeks of school are typically unkind to Chicago students, and they’ve been especially tough for the volleyball team over the past several years.
From 2005 to 2008, the Maroons went 18–53 during the academic year; last year, their best during the stretch, they had six wins after classes began. If 20 wins weren’t a good enough sign that the current squad is spurring a Chicago volleyball renaissance, maybe 10 wins since classes started will do.
The Maroons (21–10, 4–3) completed the UAA’s regular season gauntlet this past weekend in the final Round Robin of the year, winning three of their four matches at NYU to give themselves a 10–3 record since school started on September 29.
“I think we’ve finally had the consistent weekend we’ve been looking for,” first-year middle blocker Katie Trela said. “In the beginning of the season, we split everything: We’d go 1–1 or 2–2, keeping us just above the .500 mark…. I think we’ve actually improved our play and mentality in the second half of the season.”
The winning streak started at the Gargoyle Classic two weekends ago, where the Maroons won all four matches in a total of 14 sets. After another convincing win over Concordia last Tuesday, the South Siders entered this weekend’s Round Robin carrying a five-game win streak, which they continued by besting Case (18–6, 3–4) 3–0 and Brandeis (13–11, 1–6) 3–1 on Saturday at NYU.
The Maroons would pick up their third win of the weekend with a 3–0 victory over Rochester, but not before fourth-ranked Wash U (22–3, 7–0) snapped Chicago’s streak with a three-set win.
Chicago’s losses to third-ranked Emory (24–5, 6–1), a 3–0 affair at the first Round Robin on October 3, and Wash U are reminders that the Maroons still have work to do if they want to join the UAA’s elite. The South Siders understand what progress they’ll have to make over the final three weeks of the regular season.
“I hope this is the last weekend we go into a match thinking, ‘Uh oh, these guys were national champions last year. Hopefully this match isn’t too ugly,’” Trela said. “No one on our team rationalizes any losses anymore.”
All sights are now set on the UAA Championship tournament, which Chicago hosts November 7–8. With a 4–3 record in UAA play, the Maroons hold the third seed in the tournament and will open it against Carnegie (13–10, 3–4), a team that knocked off the Maroons in a close 3–2 match at the first Round Robin.
Still, with five matches remaining in the regular season, though none against ranked opponents, the Maroons are nearing their preseason goal of 25 wins, a mark they last hit in 1996. If the South Siders surpass 26 wins on the year, it will be only the second time in program history. Chicago won 30 games in 1992.
“Based on this weekend, and the few past ones, I think the UAA has something to fear from Chicago,” third-year outside hitter Elizabeth Kossnar said.
The Maroons hit the court for their final regular season home game when Dominican (15–11) comes to town at 7 p.m. Wednesday.