After a long trip to Maine kicked off Wesleyan’s NESCAC play, a favorable schedule has kept the team in Connecticut for the past three games. This week, the Cards followed up an away match against Western Connecticut State University with home games against Trinity and Coast Guard Academy.
Thursday’s matchup against Western Connecticut was one of the closest matches so far this season. The tight first set went to the Colonials 28-26 in extras, but the Cardinals rebounded strongly to take the second set 25-20. Western quickly regained their lead, controlling the third set and rolling to a commanding 25-13 win. Western’s outstanding defense limited Wesleyan hitters to just six kills in the last set.
After falling behind 17-12 in the fourth set, Wesleyan was on the ropes with the Colonials looking to wrap up the win. However, the Cards slowly but surely gained ground and tied the set up just in time at 24-24. In extra time, Wesleyan capitalized on errors by the opposition to take the set at 27-25.
This forced a decisive fifth set. Unfortunately, the Cards could muster little on attack, and the Colonials successfully executed their chances to put the ball away. In the end, Western won 15-5, securing a 3-2 overall victory.
This loss dropped Wesleyan below .500 for the first time all season. The length of the match allowed Cardinals Arianna D’Andrea ’18, Jade Ransohoff ’18, and Emma Robin ’19 to see playing time and make contributions to the team. Sarah Swenson ’18 led the team in kills with 17, while Heidi Westerman ’17 assisted on 42 of the 49 Wesleyan kills.
Next up was a home match against Trinity on Friday evening. Going into the match, Wesleyan had lost seven games in a row to the Bantams, having last won in 2008.
Each of the first two sets were tight, with ties occurring late. After Trinity knotted the score at 23 in the first set, kills from Naja Lewis ’17 and Caroline Diemer ’18 gave Wesleyan a 25-23 win. The second set was tied at 17, but the Cardinals took eight of the remaining nine points to win 25-18, taking a commanding 2-0 lead.
The third set went much more smoothly, as Wesleyan took an early lead and never looked back. A 25-14 victory clinched a sweep for the Cards, their second straight set victory of the season.
The main highlight for the Cardinals was extremely efficient play, something Coach Ben Somera has been focusing on since the beginning of the season. His team made just eight errors en route to a .239 hitting percentage. Madeleine Lundberg ’19 led the team in both kills and blocks, with eight of the former and four of the latter. She also contributed four service aces, another team high, and seven digs in a great all-around effort.
The week’s final match came Saturday morning against Coast Guard Academy. Wesleyan had not beaten CGA since 2008, although this was just their fifth contest in that time frame.
Each of the first two sets in this match were fairly close. After a 20-20 tie, the Bears went on a small run that was enough to capture the first set 25-21. In response, the Cards staved off a CGA comeback attempt in the second to win 25-22 and tie the match at one set apiece.
Over the next two sets, the sides did not appear quite so evenly matched. Wesleyan quickly fell behind in each set, and the Bears notched back-to-back 25-11 wins. This gave CGA a 3-1 overall victory, improving their season record to 7-4.
Diemer had one of her stronger games so far this season, logging ten kills to just one error for a whopping .391 hitting percentage. Kelsey Tam ’19 also had one of the best games of her young career, matching Rachel Savage ’17 with a team high of nine digs. The Cardinals struggled with blocked shots this match, as Robin and Lundberg assisted on the team’s only block of the day.
Despite having lost four of their last five matches, Lewis said that the team has remained positive and chemistry remains high.
“We haven’t had any issues within the team,” Lewis said. “Coach really makes sure we get along well; he has a big personality.”
She was also very complimentary of assistant coach Lee Maes, saying that she was impressed by his outside experience.
“One day during practice he was facetiming [former Olympic gold medalist] Misty May-Treanor,” recounted Lewis.
Coming up this week for the Cardinals are NESCAC matches at home against Hamilton and Middlebury. Wesleyan will look to come out of these meetings above .500 and continue to improve in practice and game situations.