Volleyball prepares for Ivy League play

by Daniel Lee | 9/23/15 6:01pm

In preparation for its Ivy League slate, the volleyball team played four games over the last five days. Over the weekend, the women competed in Rochester, Michigan, defeating Eastern Illinois University and losing against Western Michigan University and tournament host Oakland University. The Big Green was on the road again for a Tuesday night match against Bryant University — its final game before conference play — where it dropped a four-set contest, bringing the team’s current record to 3-6.

The women opened the Oakland tournament with a five-set marathon against Western Michigan. Indicative of the tightness between the two teams, the Big Green and Western Michigan found themselves tied at 23-23 during the first set of the match. Western Michigan sophomore Olivia Kofie and junior Nicole Kinser registered kills to respectively score the 24th and 25th points to steal the first set and prevent a sudden death scenario.

The Big Green changed the narrative in the second set and pulled away from the Broncos early, scoring five consecutive points in two different occasions for an early 14-5 lead against Western Michigan. Dartmouth took the second set at 25-17.

The two teams traded blows as the Broncos took a close third set 25-22 to once again gain the lead, but the Big Green bounced back, winning the fourth set 25-16. Though Dartmouth won the second and fourth sets by eight and nine points respectively, Dartmouth and Western Michigan entered the fifth set tied at two sets each.

In a 15-point final set, the teams started out neck-and-neck until Western Michigan burst ahead of Dartmouth on a 6-2 run to take the fifth set 15-9 and win the match. Co-captain Kayden Cook ’16 had 56 assists and Zoe Leonard ’19 registered 30 digs during the game.

Dropping the first game of the tournament in such a tight contest brought about some frustration for the team, Paige Caridi ’16 said.

“[The loss] was disappointing because we had out-hit them, out-blocked them and out-dug them,” Caridi said. “I think ultimately in the fifth set we came out a little flat, weren’t aggressive enough, had some crucial hitting errors and played more hesitant than we should have.”

Dartmouth was able to find a more solid offensive rhythm in the second game of the tournament against Eastern Illinois. After the teams split the first two sets, they battled in a third set which saw the score tied on 14 different occasions. The Big Green was able to pull away and seal the set after kills by Cook and co-captain Kaira Lujan ’16. In the clinching set, the Big Green led Eastern Illinois 17-10, but almost saw its lead evaporate. The women, however, held on to finish the set 25-22 and win the match. The Big Green combined for an impressive .365 attack percentage while Cook dished 55 assists and Emily Astarita ’17 registered a team high 27 kills.

For its final game of the tournament, Dartmouth faced the host team, Oakland. After dropping the first set of the game, the Big Green bounced back, winning another nail-biter set and taking the second with a final score of 31-29. The third set proved to be a difficult loss for the Big Green as Oakland broke a 15-all tie and went on a 7-1 run before ultimating winning the set 25-21, putting the Golden Grizzlies within one set of the match.

The fourth set presented similar problems as the women were unable to capitalize on opportunities and quickly found themselves on the losing end after Oakland scored the first five points of the set. The Golden Grizzlies cruised on to win the set 25-13, ending Dartmouth’s tournament. Over the course of the match, Allison Brady ’16, Astarita and Caridi registered 10, 12 and 14 respective kills, while Cook was awarded 47 assists. Astarita was named to the All-Tournament Team as she posted 61 kills and 27 digs during the three games of the tournament.

“As a team our stats were great, we put up some good numbers, but we’re going to continue working on execution as we move forward and start conference play this weekend,” Brady said.

After the weekend tournament, the women headed to Smithfield, Rhode Island, to face Bryant, the team’s final match before its Ivy opener against Harvard University this Friday. Both teams came ready for a battle, and the first set went to sudden death as each team took turns registering kills. With the score tied 28-28, Bryant committed two consecutive attack errors, giving the Big Green the hard earned victory. The next three sets were a different story, as the Big Green found itself down early deficits and were unable to complete comeback attempts. In hopes of pushing the match to five sets, the Big Green scored 6 consecutive points for a 12-11 lead in the fourth set, but ultimately lost 25-20.

Astarita had 21 of the 55 team kills, and Stacey Benton ’17 had 39 of the total 53 assists.

When reflecting on the game, the team identified areas of improvement, so that it could learn from its mistakes for the season ahead, Caridi said.

“[The loss] was a minor setback for the team, but you always need that during the season so I’m glad that it happened early and before we started [the Ivy Season],” Caridi said. “The game allowed us to reconsider and refocus on our priorities and what we need to work on as individuals to not let us drop sets to teams that we ultimately shouldn’t be dropping games to.”

Next, the women will face Harvard at Cambridge, Massachusetts, this Friday at 7 p.m.