Rough beginnings can be instructive. After the disheartening results of the volleyball season-opening Brandeis University Tournament, Wesleyan will look to fix the flaws exposed during the team’s first weekend of play and get things on track before the upcoming home debut.
Facing off first against host Brandeis on Friday, Sept. 6 and then Emmanuel College and Babson College on Saturday, Sept. 7, the Cardinals were consistently overmatched. Though they were able to keep it close and challenge on occasion, they were never able to break through in any of the three matches, losing each of them in straight sets.
Yet even in defeat, Wesleyan’s best players were able to showcase their skills. The brightest spot on the court was captain Kate Centofanti ’14, whose all-around performance propelled her to a spot on the all-tournament team this year. She recorded 22 kills and 25 digs over the course of the three games, making major contributions on both offense and defense to earn her place on the nine-member honorary roster.
Her best play came in the early Saturday match against Emmanuel, in which she led the Cards with 13 kills in the teams’ first-ever meeting. Centofanti was one of three Redbirds to post double-digit kills in Wesleyan’s closest competition of the tourney, as fellow captains Kim Farris ’14 and Monica Leslie ’14 tallied 12 and 10, respectively.
As per usual for the Cardinals that weekend, Claire Larson ’15 notched 33 assists as setter, and new libero Rachel Savage ’17 headed the defensive effort with 11 digs. Unfortunately, the service game did Wesleyan in; whereas Emmanuel finished with eight aces against five errors off the serve, the Cardinals registered just four aces and 10 errors. It’s next to impossible to win when you are half as effective and twice as erratic on your serve as your opponent.
Wesleyan was not much better in that area against Brandeis and Babson, but there were other issues to contend with. In the first play of the season versus Brandeis, the Cardinals’ front line struggled in a true road match. Farris was the only Bird with more than six kills, and the team finished with just 30 total. Meanwhile, the host’s Liz Hood led all players with 15 kills and didn’t make a single error.
Wesleyan once again doubled up its opponent in miscues, this time compiling 22 attacking errors against just 11 for Brandeis. With the cleaner service play in this match, the Cardinals were able to push their opponents to the brink in the third set, but they fell 26-24 to seal the deal in the first loss of the season.
The Babson match ultimately featured a confluence of the problems that plagued the Cards in their first two defeats. Wes sported its weakest attack of the weekend, with Leslie posting 10 of the team’s 21 kills and Larson limited to just 20 assists, while the team sputtered with 15 attacking errors and six service errors against just two aces.
It was a boom-or-bust service game on the other side, as Babson offset its nine errors with 10 aces, but its attack dominated Wesleyan with 35 kills and just seven assists. In their final play at Brandeis, the Cardinals were dealt their most resounding defeat against a team they had beaten in all three of their previous meetings.
So Wesleyan has some work to do in advance of its first home match of the season, which is coming up on Friday, Sept. 13 versus Eastern Connecticut. If the team continues to play as it has, it could be a rough season, but sometimes these early stumbles are blessings in disguise. The talent in the Cardinal lineup proved its worth, and the team identified its shortcomings. If that’s what it takes for Wesleyan to put everything together going forward, this difficult tournament will be an afterthought.