As students return to campus and the University of Chicago begins a new school year, the Maroons look to take their 12–4 record into UAA conference play that begins this weekend. The Maroons begin play this Saturday in New York City with matches against conference rivals NYU and Rochester.
But, while school is just starting for most students, the Maroons have been excelling on the volleyball court since early September. The Maroons started the season off with a sizzling start winning their first eight matches, including first place finishes at the Gargoyle Classic and the Jim Memorial Classic. One of the wins included a bea tdown of the defending national champion, Hope College. It marked the first win over Hope College in Chicago’s history. First-year Brooke Watson was especially encouraged by the win. “It was so awesome to beat Hope College, especially since they were ranked third. We played really well and held our own against them throughout all five sets.”
Third-year Mary Claire Tuohy felt that even though it was a momentous win, on the court it was business as usual. “For such a big match and a tremendous uproar, the win seemed to come almost naturally. The match wasn’t stressful or forced and going in we knew we had nothing to lose.”
After being handed their first loss of the season against Illinois Wesleyan, the Maroons bounced back to win the Carthage Classic in Kenosha, WI, with one of the wins coming against No. 5 UW Stevens-Point.
The strong start for the Maroons has the team very optimistic about its chances for the rest of the season and an eventual playoff push. Second-year Taylor David is optimistic, noting, “We are working well as a team and we have extremely high hopes for the postseason. We are about to start conference play and are super excited about that. We have been experiencing a lot of pressure being in the fantastic position we are in but we are continuing to work on developing our offense and remaining very dynamic in the front row.”
But before the Maroons can make a postseason push they have to get through conference play in the UAA. Watson notes that the Maroons’ strong start and recent success will coax the best effort out of every team they face. “We got second place at UAAs last year so we will have a target on our backs this season. We’ve had a strong schedule so far which has helped us prepare for our upcoming conference matches. Every conference game is important and will be competitive and we’ll have to play really hard and execute well if we want to have a successful weekend.”
The first UAA opponent the Maroons have to face are the Yellow Jackets of Rochester, who come into the match with a 10–7 record and a 2–3 record in their last five matches. The Yellow Jackets have nine starters returning from last year’s squad that finished sixth in the UAA. The Yellow Jackets should provide a formidable challenge to the Maroons to open up conference play in the UAA.
After facing Rochester, the Maroons will be taking on the Violets of New York University. The Violets come in to the match on a two-game winning streak and an overall record of 9–7. NYU is a team loaded with youth due to only having one fourth-year and one third-year on the team. Look for the Maroons’ experience to prevail in the match to overpower the Violets.
The direction of the Maroons seems to only be trending upward and should bode well for conference play and a deep postseason run. While they may be out of town this weekend in New York, their departure will only be brief and they will be back on the enriched Maroon soil of Hyde Park in short time.