Volleyball Drops First Match of the Season, Recovers with Two Wins
By Jaskaran Bains '14, Contributing Writer
The women’s volleyball team traveled to Middlebury last weekend riding a strong wave of momentum after winning their first three games of the season in straight sets.

However, the Firedogs ran into their first bit of adversity in their first NESCAC match against their host, Middlebury. They lost in three sets to a Panthers squad that was out for revenge after being ousted by the Firedogs in last year’s conference quarterfinals. Sophomore Callie Neilson put forth an outstanding effort in the losing effort, with 25 assists and 10 digs, while senior Erin Camp matched that effort on defense with 16 digs.

Sophomore Cristy Meier led the offensive charge, posting nine kills in the effort. However, she expressed disappointment with the team’s performance as a whole: “We didn’t play close to as well as we can, but we learned a lot about our team and what we need to improve.”

Despite the final result, the Firedogs battled until the end, fighting to even the score at 18-18 in the third set before eventually falling 25-21.

The team certainly heeded those words as they went into their second match of the weekend against St. Michael’s College. They took the court “with a renewed fire and the realization that success is not going to just be handed to us,” according to Meier.

The motivated Firedogs took out their frustration on the Purple Knights, sweeping the match 3-0. The first set proved a struggle as St. Michael’s put up a valiant fight, but the Firedogs eventually prevailed by the narrow margin of 30-28.

The next two sets unfolded without many problems for the Jeffs, as the team cruised through the two sets to the tune of 25-11 and 25-19. Defense played an essential role in this victory, and senior tri-captain Rachel Yorke led the team with 21 digs. First-year Devin Pence added 13 digs and brought a positive attitude to the court. “You need to have a sense of urgency [on defense] as well as a constant determination to get every ball up,” said Pence.

On Tuesday, the Firedogs looked to build on the positive aspects of the St. Michael’s game, as they traveled to Johnson & Wales University. The team fed off the contributions of Meier and fellow senior Jackie Berkley to grab the win in three sets.

Meier led the team with 11 kills and two digs, while Berkley’s nine kills in just 13 attacks gave her a noteworthy hitting percentage of 0.692. Neilson once again provided strong support for the attack with 29 assists and 10 digs. The entire team stepped up their level of play as the contest wore on, winning the final two sets by a convincing 25-16 mark after managing to grab the first set 25-22.

The victory fed the confidence of the players, and Meier reiterated that, “We have a really strong team and I have high hopes for this season,” a sentiment she held to adamantly even after the heart-wrenching loss to Middlebury.

The team’s statistics support Meier’s assertion, as the Firedogs have 175 kills thus far in the season, which easily dwarfs the 59 that Amherst opponents have managed to put away. The Firedogs also hold an impressive 356-104 cumulative advantage in digs, showing that both the offense and defense are beginning to round into mid-season form.

After the first half-dozen matches, the team will face its first tournament competition this weekend as they host the 2010 Amherst Classic. The Firedogs will face off against Brandeis and Westfield State on Friday and Coast Guard on Saturday in what promises to be an entertaining trio of matches.

Pence emphasized that the team’s recipe for success is “to treat each game as the most crucial one of the season,” a mindset that will certainly come in handy this weekend.

Issue 03, Submitted 2010-09-22 03:43:58