c/o Sterling Rodas

c/o Sterling Rodas

The volleyball team suffered their first loss of the season this past weekend. Going into the weekend, they were 16th in the national rankings, but have since risen to 14th despite the loss. They also still remain undefeated in NESCAC play, having swept both Tufts and Trinity 3–0 each. 

Grace Bell ’23 looked to the match-up against Tufts on Sep. 16 as one of the best moments of the current season.

“Playing Tufts is such an emotional experience,” Bell wrote in an email to The Argus. “Sweeping them for the first time since 2002 deserves to be on the highlight reel of the season thus far.”

Pretty much everyone on the team is in agreement that they are the best they’ve ever been. Mariko Tanaka ’24 pointed to the team’s depth and the strong determination of the players.

“We have so much depth in talent and with consistent hard work I have no doubt we can make it very far this year,” Tanaka wrote in an email to The Argus. “It will be challenging and hard on us physically, but I am confident that our goal of winning will motivate us to get better every week and push through.”

The team makes an active effort to gel well together; they are very intentional in focusing on teamwork rather than individuality.

“Honestly, I am so impressed by how our team meshes so well together despite all the different personalities,” Tanaka wrote.“I value them so much, not only because this is a team full of competitors, but also because regardless of who is out on the court, the support we give each other makes us successful.”

On Sep. 24th, the Red and Black hosted an invitational for Tufts, Susquehanna University, and New York University (NYU). They competed against Susquehanna and NYU in back-to-back matches.

The Cardinals breezed through their game against Susquehanna, winning in a 3–0 sweep.

Tanaka led the way with 11 kills, followed by Bianca Gonya ’25 with five, and Sophia Lindus ’26 with four. With nine straight wins under their belt, Wesleyan met NYU in Silloway Gymnasium for their toughest match-up yet.

The crowd was bustling as players took the court, with Wesleyan and NYU spectators alike leading cheers to encourage their respective teams. As the first set started, it felt like the whole gymnasium held its breath.

The first set was a constant back-and-forth struggle. The Cardinals would be up by six, then NYU would fight back and take the lead. Eventually, Wesleyan managed to tie it up 21–21 before finally capturing the set with a service ace to net a score of 25–23. 

With that first win, the energy swelled in Silloway. After a hard-fought effort from both sides, NYU ended up walking away with the second set 25–27. With the game evened at 1–1, the third set would be critical in terms of capturing momentum and the lead.

However, the Cardinals were determined to play on their own terms in the third set. They seized a lead midway through the set and held onto it to finish 25–20. They only needed to win one more match in order to win over NYU.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned, and NYU wasn’t quite ready to give up. In the fourth set, both teams traded points back and forth before the Violets took a strong seven-point lead. Wesleyan did their best to recover and stay alive, but they ended up losing the fourth set 21–25.

This was the first time this season that the Cardinals had a game go to five sets. In the fifth set, teams switch sides at eight points, and the set ends at 15 rather than 25. Despite Zoe Swift ’25 having two back-to-back blocks (one solo, one assist) to stave off NYU’s upward climb, the Violets eventually stole the lead and the game, winning the final set 10–15.

Despite the results, the Cardinals have found points of pride just as much as they have identified aspects to work on. Their ability to rely on each other has allowed them to adjust and adapt to any situation. 

Volleyball at Wesleyan is not only about the team’s record, but the lengths to which the players will go. While volleyball centers itself around an inanimate object, the Cardinals will always bring the ideas of cooperation and teamwork to life.

Lindus highlighted how the team focuses on each other through adversity. 

[Head Coach of Volleyball Ben Somera] calmed our nerves by saying that we have so much depth on our team that we can play against Tufts in our gym, but they can’t replicate us in their gym, which was great,” Lindus said.

Even with their strong roster, though, going from game to game can take a mental toll. Bell noted that it can be stressful to have to sustain your energy throughout the course of several matches, especially when matches go to five sets.

“I think the hardest thing of playing back to back is maintaining game mentality after already playing,” Bell wrote. “Usually after a match, you are able to breathe, relax, and let go of the intensity and pressure that a game provides. Playing two games doesn’t allow for that relaxation as players have to remain in a game mindset.”

The Cardinals are maintaining a focus on the positive takeaways from this past weekend. Somera remains optimistic about the team’s future.

“We have had a very successful season to this point and this past weekend competition has shown us areas of our games that we can improve,” Somera wrote in an email to The Argus. “Like every team in the country, we are trying [to] improve as quickly as possible and there are things in our control that we can do better to facilitate improvement on daily basis.”

The volleyball team has been focused on hard work since preseason, and every player wants to take themselves and their team to the next level. 

“Our training that took place in preseason definitely helped our successful start to the season,” Grace Dennis ’23 said. “In the past, we [tended] to take some time to adjust to the new school year and integrate the freshmen into our program, but this year was much different. We got straight to work, competed hard every day, and I can confidently say that our training is the reason we have played so well together thus far.” 

As the season continues, the Cardinals are focused on taking what the match-up taught them with them to the future. Specifically, the Red and Black are hungry for a championship. Not that they need it though, as the Cardinals have always been the epitome of success through trials and tribulation. 

Looking forward, the Cardinals will go to Maine to face off against both Colby and Bates on Sep. 30th at 7 p.m. and Oct. 1 at 12 p.m., respectively. The Cardinals don’t have time to wallow; they have so much to look forward to. 

Dennis is one of many players who is excited about the championships the Cardinals have their sights set on.

“I am most looking forward to the different ‘championships’ ahead,” Dennis said. “The Little Three Championship (at home) is right around the corner, and the NESCAC Championship is just a few short weeks after. These championships are always fun to compete in, and I think that we will have a great shot at both if we continue to train and play as a team.”


Cameron Bonnevie can be reached at cbonnevie@wesleyan.edu.

Oluchi Chukwuemeka can be reached at ochukwuemeka@wesleyan.edu.

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