Heading into this week, Wesleyan volleyball had its back against the wall. With only six games remaining to qualify for the NESCAC tournament, the team had a record of 4-10. The Cardinals’ 1-7 NESCAC record, which remained unchanged through this week, ties them for last in the conference with only two league matches left to play.
On Thursday, the team played in Massachusetts against Westfield State University. The first set was not competitive, ending in a 25-15 rout in favor of the Owls that was more one-sided than the score would indicate. The second set was more successful for Wesleyan, as the team held a lead as late as 21-20. However, the home team went on a run to end the set and eventually won 25-21. WSU clinched the sweep in another fairly uneven set, winning the final frame 25-19 for an easy 3-0 overall victory.
This loss extended Wesleyan’s losing streak to seven games. A high number of errors marred the Cardinals’ performance. Sarah Swenson ’18 and Emma Robin ’19 were bright spots on offense, with 15 combined kills and limited errors. Meanwhile, Kelsey Tam ’19 and Rachel Savage ’17 contributed defensively and facilitated the hitters.
Friday marked the start of the Hall of Fame Tournament at Amherst, beginning with a nightcap against Brandeis University. In the first set, Brandeis jumped out to a 11-5 lead and gave up little ground en route to an 25-17 victory. Wesleyan seemed to play with more offensive intensity in the second set, as it increased its number of kills from seven to twelve. The set was tied as late as 18-18, but ultimately went to Brandeis 25-21.
The Cardinals had yet to come back from a 2-0 deficit all season, but this didn’t seem to be a point of dismay. Wesleyan dominated the third set 25-15, and barely captured the fourth set 25-23 to force the match into a decisive fifth set. This set stayed close throughout, with no team able to establish a strong lead. As the match wound to a close, a kill by Brandeis hitter Maddie Engeler pushed the score to 14-12, forcing Wesleyan into a do-or-die situation. Savage could not corral the subsequent serve, and the Cardinals dropped the set 15-12 for a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.
Wesleyan played its first game on Saturday against Vassar College, who entered the match at an even 12-12. After Heidi Westerman ’17 started the match with a service run of eight straight points, the Brewers slowly climbed back to even the score at 14. With the score still tied at 24, Swenson had a kill followed by a service ace from Madeleine Lundberg ’19 to secure the 26-24 victory. While the second set was initially close, Wesleyan pulled away for a 25-16 win. This momentum carried over into the third set, which Wes eked out by a score of 25-23.
This 3-0 victory snapped an eight game losing streak. Sarah Small ’18 had one of her best efforts of the season with eight kills and four digs, while Robin also sparkled with four kills and five blocks.
The final game of the week took place later on Saturday against Springfield College. This represented arguably Wesleyan’s toughest challenge of the season, as the Pride entered the game with a record of 25-2. The Cardinals kept things close in the first set, but ultimately fell 25-18. They were then dismantled 25-6 in the second set, their worst score in any single set so far this season. Springfield capped their winning effort with a 25-18 win in the third set for a 3-0 sweep overall.
Despite going just 1-3 on the week, Robin was encouraged by the team’s performance.
“We played much better at the tournament and won a game,” Robin said. “We competed well.”
At this point, the team’s season is all but over, with the recent string of losses dashing any lingering playoff hopes. Robin said that the focus was on improving during the offseason in preparation for next year.
“We are going to be getting in the gym and working on our overall game,” Robin said.
The Cards will close their season out this weekend with two home games. They take on Williams College Friday night, and then conclude the year against Amherst College on Saturday. Although it has been a rough season in Coach Ben Somera’s first year in charge, change is in the air, and those NESCAC matchups this weekend may well provide an epic finale.