After rolling to victory against the University of Saint Joseph and Worcester State University to kick off the season, Wesleyan sustained their first loss of the season at the hands of Rhode Island College. Overall, the team seemed happy with its week one performance, but hoped to continue improving as the season unfolds.
This past week, the Cardinals played a Thursday match against Eastern Connecticut State before heading to Maine over the weekend, where they kicked off NESCAC play against Bates on Friday and Colby on Saturday.
It was immediately clear that Thursday’s contest would be tight. After a back and forth start to the match, a well-timed win streak at the end of the first set led the birds to a 25-22 win. The second set went similarly, with a Cardinal win streak breaking a tie at 22 for another 25-22 win.
Sloppy play by Wesleyan marred the third set, as they recorded a hitting percentage of just .091. Still, they were able to gain a lead of 24-21, and had three straight chances to gain the one more point necessary to clinch the set and match. This seemingly secure lead soon dissipated, as the Warriors strung together 4 points to take a 25-24 lead. In the end, ECSU took the set 27-25, forcing Wesleyan into a 4th set. This fourth, and ultimately decisive, set was no trouble at all for the Cards. They opened up an early lead and never looked back, finally pulling away for a 25-15 victory.
Many strong Cardinal efforts highlighted this 3-1 victory. As usual, Heidi Westerman ’17 led the team in assists, amassing 40, while libero Rachel Savage ’17 had some spectacular digs on the way to a match-high 31. Leading on attack were Caroline Diemer ’18, Sarah Swenson ’18, and Naja Lewis ’17, who also added a team high four blocks.
The momentum from Wesleyan’s hot start to the season rolled into the first set of Friday’s match at Bates, which the Cardinals took 25-17. The hot streak dried up quickly, however, as Coach Ben Somera’s group could only muster seven and five kills in the second and third sets, respectively. The Cardinals lost these sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-14.
The last set was extremely back and forth, as both teams went on big runs late in the match, leading to a tie at 19-19. The set finally ended as Bates picked up six of the remaining points to Wesleyan’s two, ending the match in a 3-1 Bobcat victory.
For Bates, Chandler McGrath was dominant on attack with 20 kills. Top hitters for Wesleyan included Swenson, who led the team with 11 kills, and Madeleine Lundberg ’19. Lundberg had a great all-around match, tallying nine kills, eight digs, and three blocks.
The Colby match was a similar story. While the Cardinals played more mistake-free volleyball, they struggled to kill the ball while the hitters for the Mules seemed to have no trouble executing and putting the ball away. The first two sets fell easily to Colby, by scores of 25-14 and 25-15. A third set fightback came up short, sadly, with the Cards losing by a score of 25-22 to complete the 3-0 loss.
In this match, Abby Southam ’16 put in a well-rounded effort, particularly in complementing Savage’s defensive efforts.
After struggling in NESCAC play last year, at 3-7, Wesleyan can’t be happy with its 0-2 start in conference play. However, NESCAC games aren’t the be-all and end-all for Coach Somera.
“Every game is important to the team, and a big part of being more competitive is building a culture that is focused on daily improvement and allowing the results to take care of themselves,” Somera said. “As we continue to build better habits and consistency in our training environment, our results will improve.”
When asked about his team’s performance, Somera stressed the importance of improving every time they take the court. Particularly, he spoke to the importance of teamwork and communication.
“As a team we are working on being a cohesive and consistent unit and regardless of what level we are at we are always going to look for ways elevate our team’s efficiency,” Somera said. “Overall, our play is improving and for continued growth we need to continue to challenge our team with doable objectives.”
Next up for the Cardinals is a road match on Thursday against Western Connecticut State, followed by home matches against Trinity on Friday and Coast Guard Academy on Saturday.