Volleyball "M's" combine for near mastery of competition
M&M's reigned in Leede Arena this weekend. Check that. M&M rained volleyballs in Leede Arena this weekend.
But the blasted shots by Anne Murray '00 and Janna Merryfield '00 weren't enough to overcome a strong Providence College team (13-6) on Saturday in what proved to be the finals of the Dartmouth Volleyball Invitational.
The Dartmouth women's team (8-2) took an eight-match win streak into Saturday's finale, including dominating wins Friday night over Boston College (3-12) and Central Connecticut State University (4-10) and a win earlier on Saturday against the ladies of Siena College (7-10). Those three matches showcased a confident Dartmouth volleyball squad at its finest, using a quick transition game and flourishing while running their offense up the middle of the court.
A huge reason why the Big Green are off to their best start in team history, Murray had 48 kills and 51 digs for the tournament while Merryfield had 47 kills and 52 digs. Maria Stutsman y Marquez '98, the human digging machine and third M, had 46 digs while playing in just half the points.
"Our passing was really on and that's really key," middle blocker Latia Curry '98 said of her 14 kills from the middle on the night.
Friday's matches weren't for the hung over, as a large and encouraging crowd jumped from their seats with every electrifying kill from Merryfield and Murray and amazing digs by Stutsman y Marquez. Adding to the blood-baths were huge stuff blocks by Curry and Murray and breathtaking pancakes by Felicity Kolp '99 and Merryfield.
The Green's first victim was Boston College, 15-8, 15-6, 5-15, 15-6, who looked sluggish from the beginning of the match. Merryfield led the team with 16 kills and 21 digs, but it was Dartmouth's pure transition game that put them out in front.
"The first half of the match was the best transition we've played since I've been here," Dartmouth's fourth-year head coach Ann Marie Larese said.
"It feels awesome to connect to your setter and back to your passer that well," Merryfield said of her explosive kills. "It's a great tribute to everyone on the team."
The win over Central Connecticut, 15-6, 15-2, 15-2, later that evening allowed Larese to get almost every player into the match against a hapless Blue Devil team that shot itself in the foot time and time again, committing nearly as many errors as kills, and missing seven serves with only one ace.
"The speed was incredible," Larese said after Friday night's matches. "These wins were huge. The kids played with confidence and stuck to the game plan."
Dartmouth's domination continued into Saturday's match against Siena. The Big Green abused the Saints, 15-2, 15-4, 8-15, 15-4, with Merryfield and Murray again leading the attack. This match didn't feature the power game of the first night, but instead more finesse as Dartmouth employed dinks and finger rolls to send the Saints packing.
Leading touch tactics was Emily Hallenbeck '99, who repeatedly fooled Siena backrow players.
The Big Green looked primed to take Providence in the final match of the tournament, but Dartmouth's steamrolling 15-1 first game win may have been too much of a wakeup call as the Lady Friars came alive in the second game and proved unstoppable. The Big East powerhouse found its groove and its hot hitters, bringing Dartmouth's defense to its knees, 1-15, 15-12, 15-13, 15-9.
Danra Kazenski '99 came up with arguably the play of the tournament, when she blocked a Friar hit up into the air, and put it down for the kill on the next touch.
Anne Murray continued her rock solid performance, leading the team with 21 kills and 20 digs, but her effort couldn't ignite the Green as the Big East powerhouse repeatedly put balls to the floor while errant passing plagued Dartmouth.
Providence also began hitting at Kolp, Dartmouth's setter, which then left the second ball to another player.
"When we ran the middle we were super successful," Larese said. "But by taking our setter out of play, they slowed us down and didn't allow us to run the middle."
Providence coach Ken Nichols gave credit to the Big Green defense that demoralized his Friar hitters with great digs.
Though they won't be putting any hardware in the trophy case this weekend, Larese believes that they are well on the way.
"I think that the loss will pay off in the long run. We learned a lot, and we'll be able to walk away and play better," Larese said. "I'm really happy with they way that Felicity and Danra played. They did their jobs the entire tournament."
"They come from a good conference," Murray said. "We know we lost to a good team."
Merryfield, who earned All-Tournament Team honors, summarized the team's post-game sentiment.
"We said to ourselves that we never want to feel this way again," she said.
Dartmouth now faces the challenge of getting geared up for Wednesday night's match against No. 10-ranked UNH at Leede Arena.