October 30, 2012

Chicago still finding its fight as conference tournament looms

The Maroons competed in the Benedictine tournament in Lisle, IL this weekend, marking the end of the regular season and the beginning of a much more intense postseason.

“This is the fun time of the year,” head coach Vanessa Walby said. “This is when everything counts.”

The Maroons collected three wins and one loss over the weekend, bringing their overall season standing to 26–9. They defeated North Central College, North Park University, and Concordia University Chicago with relative ease but fell against Benedictine on its home court.

Second-year libero Eirene Kim and third-year setter Nikki DelZenero were named to the All-Tournament Team.

“I think overall we played well, but at times we weren’t 100 percent focused,” first-year setter Ragine Graves said. “The second day of play was much more efficient and successful.”

“It’s fun to play really, really hard even though we weren’t playing the greatest of teams,” third-year middle-blocker Maggie Vaughn said. “That sort of drive that you practice when you’re not playing that great of a team is what won us the match against Wash U.”

The Maroons defeated North Central 3–1 on Friday before facing defeat from Benedictine 1–3. They then defeated both North Park and Concordia 3–0 on Saturday.

“Benedictine is not a better team, but recently we’ve been losing to teams who are not as skilled as us but have more of something that’s intangible, which is scrappiness and fight,” Vaughn said. “They keep everything in play and really attack us in places that we’re weak, like attacking the big girls on tips. They just came at us and didn’t stop the whole time.”

Kim had an impressive showing over the weekend, registering 24 and 29 digs the first day of the tournament and 24 more the second day, plus eight assists.

“They’ve been doing this all season long. I’m specifically talking about Eirene Kim and Samantha Brown; they stay strong through every single game and it’s really amazing,” Vaughn said. “When we were falling against Benedictine they picked us up and made sure we didn’t get crushed.”

After one of their strongest seasons yet, it remains to be seen if the Maroons will be able to pull through in the postseason. In the end, it comes down to focus and execution, and this past weekend was a lesson—perhaps a hard lesson—on the challenges they’ll face. The UAA Championship kicks off on November 2.

“Your mindset needs to be tougher,” Walby said, “and expectations are higher.”