Volleyball bounces back from losses to win home invitational

by Daniel Lee | 9/16/15 6:01pm

9-16-15-sports-volleyballstock-elizamcdonough
9.16.15.sports.Volleyballstock_ElizaMcDonough
by Eliza McDonough and Eliza McDonough / The Dartmouth

Although the volleyball team began with a tough start to the preseason, ending 0-3 after losses in the San Diego State University and University of San Diego Invitational, the women quickly bounced back in their own tournament this past weekend, defeating both visiting teams, West Virginia University and the University of Connecticut.

The Big Green had difficulties in Southern California, proving unable to win a single set during the three games of the tournament. In the first game against Texas Christian University, Dartmouth’s offense committed 22 attack errors and had a .129 attack percentage while the Horned Frogs had only 6 attack errors for an impressive .407 attack percentage.

The women then took on the University of the Pacific in the second game the next day, but were unable to maintain an 18-17 lead in the first set as the game quickly slipped away after three consecutive attack errors. The Big Green would go on to lose the next two sets as Tiger outside hitter Lexi Elman logged 13 kills and setter Kimmy Whitson personally tied Dartmouth’s team total assists with 30.

In the final game against co-host University of San Diego, the Big Green struggled to side out as the Toreros had three streaks of four or more points in the first set for a 25-14 win. The next two sets would be very close, but Dartmouth was unable to capitalize on the opportunities late in the game. The second set was tied 20-20, but the team ultimately lost the set 25-22. Then, a 20-19 lead in the third set quickly disappeared after a 5-0 run by the Toreros who again took the set 25-22 to close the match.

Despite the three losses, there was not much room for concern given this was the team’s first tournament after the addition of six freshmen from the Class of 2019.

“The big part of that has to do with having more playing time together,” middle blocker and co-captain Kaira Lujan ’16 said. “It was our first season opener, and we had some fresh talent on the court, which is always a good thing, but it’s just a matter of getting right with each other and getting more comfortable playing next to each other.”

Despite the losses, freshman libero Zoe Leonard ’19 was named to the All-Tournament team after accumulating 32 digs over the course of the three matches.

With the opening weekend under their belt, the team saw quick improvements as they hosted their own invitational and faced West Virginia this past Friday. The Big Green won the first two sets against the Mountaineers and went on to win the game 3-1 with the help of opposite Emily Astarita ’17, who logged 20 kills, and co-captain setter Kayden Cook ’16, who added 47 assists.

On Sunday afternoon, after a strong win in the first set against Connecticut, Dartmouth was dealt a significant defeat in the second set by a score of 25-11 after the Huskies went on a 13-1 run early in the set for a 14-3 lead. The Big Green, however, quickly went back to work and won the next two sets, both with scores of 25-22. The team chemistry was evident as three players for the Big Green — Astarita and outside hitters Molly Kornfeind ’17 and co-captain Paige Caridi ’16 — recorded double digits in kills off Cook’s 45 assists.

“The biggest takeaways we got from this past weekend was that we lost a big set against [the] University of Connecticut, but we came back and we ended up winning the last game,” Cook said. “[This] shows the resilience our team has and the capability to shake it off if we lose a set, which is to come out strong for the next set.”

When asked about specific adjustments, middle blocker Allison Brady ’16 and Cook mentioned that coaches and players had a great emphasis on passing.

“That allowed us to run our offense and open it up for a lot of hitters,” Brady said. “Our setter [Cook] did a great job. She had a lot of assists, and we had a lot of kills with each hitter on each side of the court.”

Cook also added that adjustments in the game plan contributed to this weekend’s success.

“We went in this past weekend with a lot more set game plan — our coaches did a lot of scouting and we came in with very specific things that each position needed to do, and I thought we executed them very well,” she said.

The Big Green will return to the court this weekend as they travel to Rochester, Michigan, to compete against Western Michigan University on Friday at 2 p.m. The next day they’ll take on Eastern Illinois University and tournament host Oakland University at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.