Following an impressive showing at the Brandeis Invitational Tournament the previous weekend, the volleyball team looked to build upon a 2-1 record with matches against Mitchell College, Worcester State, and Curry College at the Wesleyan Quad on Friday and Saturday. The team dominated all competition, triumphing in each one of their matches and reaching a record of 5-1 for the first time since 2007.
“I think we did really well,” said an excited Sarah Swenson ’18 following Friday’s win over Mitchell College. “We have a lot of potential this season, and I’m sure we’re going to do big things.”
The team did indeed appear unstoppable Friday night, displaying crisp execution and clear communication to take down the Mariners 25-9 in the first set. The Cardinals came out a little flat in the second, losing the first two points before reasserting their defense and taking control of the set. Wesleyan’s front three shined during the second set, compiling block after block and hitting with deadly precision to pave the way for a 25-10 win. The Cardinals continued their strong defensive showing in the third set, as the team handled everything Mitchell College threw at them and jumped to a 6-1 lead before closing out the set and match 25-7.
“It was a great team effort overall,” said Head Coach Gale Lackey. “We had a lot of people in there really come through for us. We didn’t start out serving as well as we would’ve liked, but we went on to have some great serving runs and took care of the ball on our side of the court.”
Abby Southam ’16 shared her coach’s enthusiasm.
“I thought that win was a great way to start our season, especially on our home court,” she said. “It gives us a lot of confidence looking ahead. We’re still working hard everyday and getting better but we’re all really excited about this season and we’ve got what it takes to be great.”
Setters Claire Larson ’15 and Heidi Westerman ’17 were dominant in Friday’s contest, combining for 34 assists in just three sets. Swenson’s nine kills led the team’s offensive onslaught, while Tyla Taylor ’18 added seven. Naja Lewis ’17, meanwhile, effectively controlled the net with seven blocks and three kills. Defensively, Rachel Savage ’17 compiled 11 digs and added two aces.
The momentum from Friday’s victory clearly carried over into Saturday’s matchups, where the Cardinals defeated Worcester State in four tight sets and dispatched Curry College in three.
“The match against Worcester State was definitely the toughest of the weekend,” said Savage following Saturday’s double-header. “While we were only three points away from finishing the match in straight sets, that fourth set win was our first of the season, so it was good to establish that we could win any set in the match going forward.”
Up 21-16 in the first set against Worcester State, an ace from Larson propelled the team to a 25-17 win. Staunch defense and opportunistic attacks helped the Cardinals close out a tight second set 25-16, with Savage rattling off seven straight points to seal the victory. Down 20-17 in the third set, the Cardinals rallied behind spectacular hits from Swenson and Taylor to make it 21-20, but were unable to close out the set as the Lancers took it 25-22. Up 17-10 in the fourth set, Worcester State stormed back to make it 18 apiece and led 24-22 with a fifth, decisive set on the line. Tremendous concentration on the part of the Cardinals, however, led to four consecutive points and a 26-24 victory. Swenson again led the Cardinals attack with 17 kills, while Taylor added 13 kills and 16 digs. Larson totaled 40 assists for the contest.
The team’s final match of the weekend against Curry College was short and one-sided, with the Colonels unable to score more than 15 points in any of the three sets. Swenson and Taylor combined for 24 kills and 10 digs during the contest while Caroline Diemer ’18 added 10 kills. Larson compiled 22 assists, setting her weekend average at 10.63 assists per set.
“It was encouraging that we were able keep our focus to close out easy matches,” Savage said.
The Cardinals will attempt to reach a record of 6-1 for the first time in seven years when they face Eastern Connecticut State University this Wednesday, Sept. 17.