Vacationland did not quite live up to its name for the volleyball team this weekend. The Cardinals headed north, to Maine, and even though the Maine Tourism Board might lead you to believe otherwise, it wasn’t all lobsters and L.L. Bean: it was mostly volleyball. The team faced the Colby Mules in Waterville on Friday night and then the Bates Bobcats in Lewiston on Saturday afternoon.
Colby, which was 3-11 on the season and 0-6 in conference play, struggled to keep up with Wesleyan’s fast-paced play. The Red and Black came out ahead in the first set, going on an 8-2 run and never letting the Mules into the game. A kill by Harper Graves ’21, assisted by Grace Rose ’21, gave Wes the winning point in the 25-14 first set.
In the second set, Colby challenged Wesleyan’s dominating play, leading 15-10 midway through the set. However, the Cardinals were not discouraged by this small deficit. They came back to win the set 25-19 following a kill by Gabby Bennett ’20, assisted by Kaira Muraoka-Robert ’20, and a Colby attack error.
The third set was very similar to the first. Wes started off strong, scoring the first two points and never looking back. The Cardinals won it 25-14, adding another match to the win column.
Stasie Litinsky ’20 led the team with ten kills, and Muraoka-Robertson led the team again with 18 assists. The team maintained a solid kill percentage of .311, propelling them past Colby, who struggled to score with a kill percentage of just .081.
The next day, the Cardinals made their way to Bates but were unfortunately not as successful. The Bobcats, who were 9-8 on the season and only 2-5 in conference play, did not appear to be too formidable of an opponent. They had previously lost to Hamilton and Williams, both of which Wes beat 3-0, and Vassar, which Wes overcame 3-2. It’s possible that the Cardinals went into this game knowing that, but having watched them play I can’t imagine the Red Birds making such a huge mental mistake. Whatever the problem was, Bates capitalized on a Wesleyan weakness and were able to capture the win in three sets, dropping the Cardinals’ record to 16-2.
Though the Bobcats scored first, the first set went back and forth. The Dirty Birds even started to pull ahead towards the end, leading 22-19, until Bates scored six unanswered points and took the set 25-22. In the second set, Wes scored first, but the game once again went back and forth with neither team giving an inch. They played ten tied points, but after Bates broke the 14-14 tie to go ahead, the Cards never quite came back. Though they stayed close, the Bobcats won the second set 25-22 as well.
The third set was much like the preceding two in that the score remained close throughout the match as the Bobcats and the Cardinals squared off, the Red and Black desperate to stay alive. Bates scored first, but Wesleyan quickly scored next from a kill by Nicole Hilton ’20, assisted by Rose. While the score remained close throughout the game, Wes never led, and Bates was eventually ahead 18-12. Naturally, the Dirty Birds closed the gap, scoring four unanswered points to make it 18-16, and then battling to make it 23-24. Then, Bates took a timeout, and when they came back on the court, a kill by Bobcat Taylor Stafford Smith sealed the win with a score of 25-23.
It’s impossible to say what caused the Cardinals to falter in this game, but it’s crucial to recognize the part of the season that the Cards dropped this game. When a team loses quickly in a game at the beginning of the season, it can kill their confidence and have a severely detrimental impact on their season as a whole. However, when this happens in the second half of the season, the team can look back and see all of the success it has had and quickly refocus. The Red and Black, which play with a great deal of poise, should have very little problem rebounding from this loss to the Bobcats amidst its number of tremendous wins.
We’ll see the team in action again as Johnson and Wales University comes to Silloway Gymnasium this Thursday night for a 7 p.m. start. The Wildcats are undefeated this season and have only lost one set. They opened up the season with a win against the Nebraska Wesleyan University Prairie Wolves and might be expecting a similar outcome, but the Cardinals will be sure to show them which Wesleyan is the real deal.
Rose Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.