I know this is embarrassing, but I was actually late to the volleyball game last Thursday. Long story short, they had tofu pad thai at Usdan, I got distracted by peanut sauce, and I didn’t walk into the gym until part way through the first set. It happens to the best of us, right? Students continued to filter in after I got there, and the energy in the gym steadily grew until the very end, when a Conn College service error anticlimactically ended the game in Wesleyan’s favor.
It’s evident why Wesleyan has had such a successful season so far: during the game they had control, in a psychological sense, for most of the match. The Cardinals played with confidence and composure, showing excitement when they earned a point while remaining poised when they made a mistake or fell behind.
Conn College was able to play a fairly clean game, only making 10 errors throughout the match, compared to Wesleyan’s 16. However, this could not offset the fact that the Camels only had 25 kills, compared to Wesleyan’s 42. The Dirty Birds’ defense also showed its superiority, making 36 digs compared to Conn’s 30. In addition, it didn’t hurt that Wes pooled a total of nine aces from six different players.
But it would be hard not to attribute at least the tiniest bit of the Cardinals’ success to the crowd that made sure no one forgot who they were cheering for. With every dig, there was a collective cry of awe; with every block, a yell of support; and with every spike, a triumphant roar. Of course, none of that would have been possible without 10 kills and two blocks from Stasie Litinsky ’20 and 13 digs from Phia Bellizzi ’21.
The Cardinals played two more games this past weekend, making the trek to Newport News, Virginia, to play Juniata College, ranked ninth in the country, and Christopher Newport University, ranked 24th.
Wes lost their first match of the season Saturday morning, with the Juniata Eagles claiming victory in the match three sets to none. Every single set was hotly contested by Wes, who had the first tied at 23 before the Eagles got the best of them, then the second set tied at 11 before the Eagles earned the same result. In the third set, the Eagles started out ahead and never let the Cards back into the game on their way to victory. It is exciting to see that, for their first match against a nationally ranked team, they were able to compete at such a high level for even half of the match. And it may have even prepared them for their game later that afternoon against Christopher Newport.
In their second game of the day, the Cardinals fought off an early lead from the Captains to win the first set 25-22. Unfortunately, they then fell behind in the next two sets, staying close but losing them both 20-25. Down two sets to one, Wesleyan was forced to rally to stay alive. So rally, they did. In the fourth set, they went ahead 7-2 early and never let Christopher Newport back into the game, closing the set with a 25-18 win. In the final set, the teams were close the entire time, playing 11 points while tied. Then, with the score tied at 14, the Captains made an error, giving Wesleyan the lead at 15-14. Kaira Muraoka-Robert ’20 saw her chance and set Harper Graves ’21 up with a beautiful kill to end the set and the match with a score of 16-14 Wesleyan.
It was an exciting battle on all accounts, but especially for Bellizzi. She put the team on her back with a total of 43 digs, tying a program record. The rest of the team also showed great success, with five players contributing double-digit kills, including Nicole Hilton ’20, who followed Bellizzi with 19.
There are three more games coming up this weekend, all of them at home. First, the Cardinals will face off against Trinity on Friday night at 7 p.m. The Bantams are 5-4 this season, having won their last two matches against Maine Maritime Academy and Mount St. Mary College. Then, on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Amherst will come to Middletown, looking to improve their 9-3 record and challenge Wesleyan’s chance at the Little Three title. Name a better pre-brunch activity. You can’t.
Finally, post-brunch, head back to the gymnasium to welcome the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks. The Ducks are 15-2 and have only lost five sets in total this season, so they are sure to be a challenging foe. Don’t let this opportunity for a beautiful, volleyball-filled Saturday morning pass you by! Set your alarm! Or, better yet, after the game on Friday night, stay in, go to bed early, and mentally prepare yourself for the thrill of two more Wesleyan volleyball games.
Rose Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.