After falling to rival Trinity last weekend, the volleyball team looked to alter their winless conference record and remain in the hunt for a NESCAC tournament berth when they traveled to Maine this past weekend. Tied with Bates for last place in the ’CAC with an in-conference record of 0-3, the Cardinals needed wins against Colby Friday evening and Bowdoin Saturday afternoon to keep their postseason hopes alive. In the end, the team got half the job done, defeating Colby in a wild five-set showdown before falling to Bowdoin in three short sets the following day.
“This was definitely another tough weekend for the team,” said Naja Lewis ’17, following Saturday’s match. “Although we didn’t fully achieve our goal, it was a great that we won our first NESCAC match. We are making great strides.”
Consistent serving and a strong defensive presence propelled Colby to a 16-10 lead in the first set, but Wesleyan came storming back to take the lead at 19-17. The Mules would prevail, however, capturing eight of the next 11 points to take the set 25-22. The Cardinals’ short memory was on display in the following set, as they played their best game of the evening. The Cards led the Mules 14-7, 17-10, and 23-11 before capturing the set 25-12. The third set was much the same as the first, with strong defensive play and timely kills giving Colby the set despite a fierce Cardinal comeback in the final points. Hoping to force a decisive fifth set, Wesleyan came out flying in the fourth, building momentum off of kills from Sarah Swenson ’18 and Tyla Taylor ’18, taking the lead 13-11. Colby was no less determined to take the set, evening the score at 18 before the Cardinals rattled off six straight points and claimed the set 25-21 off Swenson’s kill.
The final set was equally dramatic, as strong serving and dominant net play helped the Mules take an 8-4 lead before teams switched sides. With their backs against the wall, the Cardinals proved they could respond to pressure, rallying behind kills from Abby Southam ’16 and taking the lead 14-13 before Taylor sealed the match with a ferocious final kill.
Swenson led the Wesleyan charge with 18 kills for the match, while Taylor contributed further to an impressive rookie season with 17 kills and 14 digs. Claire Larson ’15 collected 42 assists and 12 digs while Rachel Savage ’17 added 17 digs. The team also compiled a season-high 15 blocks, seven at Lewis’ hands. The Cardinals are now 4-0 in five set matches this season, an area where they had struggled greatly in previous years. This was also the team’s first victory against Colby since 2010, when the Cardinals defeated the Mules 3-2 in Hartford.
Much of the fire and resilience Wesleyan exhibited during Friday’s match was absent the following day, however, when the Polar Bears pummeled the Cardinals in three short sets and extended their win streak against the Birds to a whopping six games. Wesleyan came out flat the first set, executing plays poorly and making several uncharacteristic errors.
Bowdoin took advantage, playing steadily from all areas of the court to claim the set 25-11. The Cardinals gained a little momentum in the second set, rallying behind tough defense from Savage and managing to get within two points before Bowdoin closed out the set 25-21 with particularly strong serving from its backcourt. Though the team fought hard in the third set, Bowdoin took control of the net and came away with a 25-19 victory following some impressive kills by their outside hitters.
Taylor was good for four of the team’s season-low 20 kills, while Savage amassed 17 digs. Bowdoin, meanwhile, compiled 41 kills.
The Cardinals will look to dig their way out of a tie for the penultimate seat in the conference standings when they face NESCAC foes Tufts and Connecticut College this upcoming weekend.