Wesleyan volleyball has been on a tear since Saturday, decisively winning three of its four matches, including two over NESCAC rivals. Even more notable is that its first win of the weekend versus Hamilton gave Head Coach Gale Lackey her 400th career Cardinal win. Lackey is only the second coach in Wesleyan history to achieve this mark, joining former Baseball Head Coach Peter Kostacopoulos as.
“Wesleyan has given me tremendous opportunities over the years,” Lackey said, reflecting on her milestone. “The scholar-athletes I have had the opportunity to know and teach are the most important reason for my longevity and success. I have tried to maintain a philosophy of focusing on process over outcome. When a team comes together with high standards of work ethic, individual discipline, passion, commitment and enough talent, winning will often be the by-product of that process.”
Lackey was also sure to reminisce on some of her best memories from her 24-year tenure at Wesleyan.
“I do have a special place in my heart for the 1992 team — the only team to win the Little Three Title, with upset wins over Amherst and Williams, as well as the 2001 team that reached 30 wins, a regular-season NESCAC title, and a bid to the NCAA tournament.”
The 400th win was never in contention, as the Cardinals gunned down the Continentals from the start, winning three sets decisively, 25-11, 25-15 and 25-12. The Cards totaled an impressive 38 kills in the game, with significant contributions from five different hitters. All team members entered the game, showcasing Wesleyan’s depth. The pounding was also Wesleyan’s first NESCAC win of the season, giving it an all-important tally in the conference-play win column.
“Even though the win against Hamilton was expected and easy, it still tested our ability to maintain our tempo when playing less-skilled opponents,” said Co-captain Lisa Drennan ’09. “We definitely succeeded in not playing down to their level, and we were really happy with the performance on Friday.”
The only hiccup in the Cardinals’ schedule came versus Williams College the following morning. It was apparent from the first back-and-forth that the contest would be a close fight for both squads. Wesleyan took the first set 25-22, but was overpowered in the next three sets to lose 3-1. Drennan and Casey Reed ’12 led at the net with 26 and 11 kills respectively, while defensive specialist Ruby Hernandez ’11 kept things close with 20 digs.
“Losing to Williams was definitely upsetting,” said Drennan. “We have what it takes to beat them, but we just didn’t have the necessary confidence that we had the first time we played them [and won]. On the other hand, it is definitely hard to beat a team three times, and we will most likely see Williams in the NESCACs. I would much rather beat them then, when it really matters.”
The Cardinals didn’t let the tough loss get under their skin—just 45 minutes later Wes faced, and buried, Middlebury, another formidable NESCAC opponent. Middlebury took the first game, but Wesleyan turned things around immediately at the beginning of the second set and finished the Panthers off efficiently in three straight sets.
“This past weekend showed the strength of the NESCAC this year,” said Co-captain Ellie Healy ’10. “We beat Midd, Midd beat Conn. College, Conn. College beat Williams, and Williams beat us. Anything can happen this year, and we need to make sure to take every match seriously.”
The Cardinals flew back home for their fourth game in five days to play the Rhode Island College Anchorettes. The game was never close and, just as with the Hamilton matchup, all 12 members of the squad left a mark on the court.
“Everyone did such a great job coming into the match and really stepping it up,” Healy said. “Statistically, our team did about the same with and without the subs. This just emphasizes our depth and versatility, which is definitely a strength that not all NESCAC teams have.”
Wesleyan is now 7-3 overall on the season and 2-1 in conference play, tied with two other teams for fourth place and pacing itself for yet another standout season. Up next, Wesleyan will travel to Cambridge, Mass. for the MIT Invitational. The tournament has a reputation for being extremely competitive, and the Cards will have a chance to face teams they otherwise would never see. While games may be non-conference, each one will matter toward Wesleyan’s NCAA regional standings.