Head Coach Gale Lackey knows that this upcoming weekend is no joke for the volleyball team.
“This is Senior Celebration, Homecoming/Family Weekend, and Little Threes all in one weekend,” she said. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
The Cardinals will close out the regular season at home before the Wesleyan faithful. With Amherst coming to town on Friday, Nov. 1, followed by Williams the next day, Captain Kim Farris ’14 knows that the stakes are extremely high.
“Not only is it Little Three, not only is it Senior Night, not only is it Homecoming weekend, but it’s also that these games are our gateway into the NESCAC tournament,” she said.
Wesleyan enters the weekend not just hoping to win the coveted Little Three title, but also desperately looking for a way into the postseason. The Cardinals’ NESCAC record of 2-6 puts them in a three-way tie with Bates and Colby. All three teams are vying to secure the eighth position in the standings in this final weekend. Whichever team does so will earn the final playoff spot and the chance to play for the conference championship.
The Cardinals want nothing more than to finish Homecoming as that eighth-place team. In order to give themselves a shot at doing so, they will need to win at least one, and likely both, of these Little Three matchups. Lackey, for her part, is trying to stay focused on playing one game at a time.
“We have no control over whether we will play in the NESCAC tourney because other teams’ outcomes are going to play a significant role in that,” she said. “We can only control how hard we compete.”
This is a worthwhile concern for Lackey, as the Cardinals have lost a number of close matches over the course of the season; Wesleyan has gone to a fifth set and lost in each of its last three NESCAC matches. Several players have cited the team’s failure to play all the way through points as a reason for their current predicament.
If the comments of Captain Kate Centofanti ’14 are any indication, however, the team will be rearing to go this time around.
“Going into this weekend, Homecoming weekend, we’re really ready,” she said. “We’re pretty confident we can take this Little Three title. We’ve been wanting it for so long, and we’re just so ready.”
Despite the fact that it’s been a rough season for Wesleyan so far, the team has managed to remain a cohesive unit. The team’s positivity has persevered, despite a number of difficult setbacks.
“There’s always going to be some frustration when you’re not winning,” Farris said. “However, I don’t think it’s frustration at specific people on the team. It’s just a frustration that, as a whole, we’re not living up to our full potential.”
Centofanti also emphasized the team’s togetherness.
“We foster such a sense of community,” she said. “We’ve all become really close. I love my team.”
Despite the positivity that pervades this group, the Cardinals know that Amherst and Williams are going to combine to pose a very difficult weekend challenge. Amherst is in third place at 6-2 in NESCAC play, and Williams sits atop the conference with an undefeated 8-0 record.
However, Lackey remains confident, noting that this team has improved drastically since last season, and is perhaps better than its NESCAC record shows.
“Our three seniors are offensive NESCAC leaders, and the sophomores and juniors understand the demands of the task significantly better than last season,” she said. “We are getting very able contributions from our first-year players. We’re much more mindful in practice. We’re working not only harder but more efficiently.”
While Lackey has praise for the way her players have performed this year, the players credit her for putting them in position to succeed.
“I feel like she’s the wizard in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Farris said of her coach. “She’s just this all-knowing entity. She makes us realize—she points out the skills and potential that we already have.”
The Cardinals are hoping that the individual successes experienced by so many players, coupled with the adept coaching of Lackey, can translate into wins this weekend. Farris, for one, looks forward to the high-stakes matchups ahead.
“They are going to fight like hell,” she said of the Little Three foes. “But we’re gonna fight like hell back.”