Following a seesaw trip to Maine that featured a thrilling five-set win against Colby and a disappointing loss to Bowdoin the next day, the volleyball team looked to even out a 1-4 conference record with matches against NESCAC rivals Tufts and Conn College this past weekend. In both instances, however, the Cardinals would come up short, losing to Tufts in three short sets and falling to Conn College the following day. Wesleyan is now 9-8 for the season, largely the result of an impressive 8-2 out-of-conference record.
“These were two tough matches,” said libero Rachel Savage ’17. “Taking a set off of Colby definitely showed that had we played consistently in all the sets; we could have come away with a win.”
The team came out rather subdued in the first set against Tufts, allowing the Jumbos to take control of the net and eventually the set, 25-16. Sarah Swenson ’18 helped the Cardinals remain in the second set for some time with several impressive kills, but hitting errors from the team’s front three allowed Tufts to take the set yet again. Miscues continued in the third set for the Cardinals. The team failed to execute in the critical early stages of the set and efficient net play from Tufts helped the Jumbos seal the match with a 25-16 victory.
Swenson led Wesleyan’s quiet offensive day with seven of the team’s season-low 19 kills, while Tyla Taylor ’18 added five. Claire Larson ’15 also posted a season-low 15 assists and Taylor assisted on defense with 11 digs. The team compiled only four blocks and committed six more hitting errors than Tufts, who finished with an impressive 36 kills and a sound .312 hitting efficiency. Wesleyan has not taken more than one set from Tufts since 2006, when the Cardinals defeated the Jumbos at the Amherst Invitational.
Wesleyan looked significantly more aggressive in Saturday’s matchup against Conn College, rallying around impressive games from hitters Taylor and Swenson and controlling the net early on. Yet hitting errors and miscues on defense plagued the Cardinals, allowing the Camels to overcome a five-point deficit and take the first set 25-17. The team shone in the second set, reducing their error count significantly and rallying on defense to capture the set 25-19.
However, all the momentum gained by that second set victory was lost in the third. The Cardinals appeared helpless against the Camel attack and finished with under 15 points in a set for only the second time this season. The team fought hard to remain in the match in the fourth set, looking to capitalize off of some spectacular blocks by Naja Lewis ’17 and strong defense from Savage. Their efforts were in vain, however; strong serving and timely kills propelled the Camels to a 25-20 win and a four-set victory.
The Cardinals more than doubled their offensive totals in this matchup compared to the previous one, with Taylor and Swenson combining for 23 of the team’s 41 total kills. Hitting errors were the difference in the match: Wesleyan committed 28 miscues on attacks. The team’s defense also performed well, compiling 64 digs, 15 of them at the hands of Savage. Larson totaled 30 assists and helped the Cardinals attack with three aces. Lewis, meanwhile, finished with five blocks. Wesleyan has not managed a victory against Conn College since October 2008, when the Cardinals beat the Camels in straight sets at home.
After three straight in-conference losses, the Cardinals will fight to remain eligible for the NESCAC tournament in November with two conference matchups next weekend.
“[The losses] put us in a more difficult position for this weekend, but I think that the added pressure will help us perform (given how well we perform under pressure of the fifth set),” Savage said.
Lewis shared her teammate’s sense of urgency.
“After this weekend, we have to continue to push ourselves to be better,” she said. “We have to continue motivate each other and to find that extra strength to finish this season off strong. I believe that we can do it.”
Wesleyan will play host to NESCAC foes Hamilton and Middlebury this Friday and Saturday as part of Homecoming Weekend.