Volleyball gets second Ivy win

by Ben Reed | 11/6/03 6:00am

Despite an often frustrating weekend for Big Green volleyball, the team was able to avert disaster by pulling out a Friday night five-set battle against the winless Columbia Lions (0-16, 0-8 Ivy) before suffering a straight-set shellacking to Cornell (18-3, 8-3) on Saturday.

Dartmouth (8-13, 2-8 Ivy) entered the weekend eager for an opportunity to enjoy a victory before a home crowd -- something they have been unable to accomplish this season. Against a struggling Columbia team that the women in Green had already handled in four sets in New York, an easy victory seemed inevitable.

Dartmouth came out strong early in the match, using its superior hitting depth to keep the Columbia blockers and diggers on their heels. In the first two sets Dartmouth jumped out to comfortable leads and was able to maintain them for consecutive 30-27 victories.

Dartmouth was aided early on by a strong defensive effort, making accurate passes on its serve receive and digging up numerous hard Columbia spikes. Dartmouth's strong passing contributed to its balanced offense that allowed five players to reach double-digits in kills for the match.

The Big Green additionally placed an added emphasis on its outside blocking, frustrating hard-hitting outside hitter Natalia Premovic (3.88 kills/game this season), who would even receive a yellow card for angrily spiking a ball after a play had ended. Errors were a major problem for the Lions, who gave Dartmouth numerous easy points by slamming balls into the net.

Despite a 2-0 deficit, however, on Halloween night, Columbia refused to surrender its candy without putting up a fight. Columbia stepped up its level of play in the third game, taking advantage of Dartmouth's struggles to handle setter dumps and block big middle blockers. 6'4 Erin Saltman, the tallest person on the court, had success, along with right side hitter Cassie Bryan, who totaled a game-high 26 kills for the match.

Said right side hitter Lindsay Sheffield '04, "Columbia always plays with a lot of tenacity. Regardless of whether they're winning or losing, they play hard and don't give up."

In an exciting third game, in which neither team was able to secure a comfortable lead, Columbia was able to win 33-31, despite the remarkable efforts of outside hitter Sarah Nadler '06. Carrying the Dartmouth offense, Nadler saved several game points with monstrous kill after monstrous kill.

In the fourth game, Columbia held on to its momentum, while Dartmouth continued to lack in intensity, struggling throughout the game and falling 30-24. In the fifth game, however, the Big Green came out firing, getting ahead early behind the strong hitting of middle blockers Nadine Parris '06 and Katie Frett '05, and outside hitter and co-captain Kainoa Fialkowski '04, who led the Green with 17 kills. The match ended in fitting fashion, as Nadler ripped an outside set right through the Columbia block for a 15-12 triumph.

Nadler tallied 14 kills and 31 digs for the Big Green, marking her ninth consecutive double-double.

Needing a much more consistent and enthusiastic performance for a victory against Cornell (third in the Ivy League) the Big Green provided neither on Saturday afternoon. A close first game quickly fell completely out of Dartmouth's control, as Cornell reeled off a string of consecutive points on the tough serve of outside hitter Debbie Quibell to cruise to a 30-16 first game victory.

Possessing a huge and agile front line, Cornell severely outblocked the Big Green, dominating at the net. Dartmouth also struggled defensively, unable to make consistently accurate passes on its service receptions.

After the first game, head coach Ann Marie Larese made a surprising move, changing the regular rotation and substituting several freshmen and reserves for some regular starters, including co-captain outside hitter Kainoa Fialkowski '04, who came into the weekend second on the team with 181 kills. Outside hitter Amy Linn '07, libero Skye Zeller '07, and middle blocker Sandi Beutler '07, all logged significant playing time for the first time since the Ivy season began.

With a new lineup on the court, Dartmouth's struggles continued into the second game. The team lost the first ten points on the hard float serve of the Cornell middle blocker, having difficulty making a solid serve reception and generating an attack. Aided, however, by some big kills from Nadler (5 in the game, 15 for the match), numerous Cornell errors, and very solid defense from Zeller, Dartmouth worked its way back into the game, closing the deficit to four at 24-20. The Cornell net attack proved to be too much for the Green, however, as outside hitter Hayley Grieve closed a 30-22 game with three kills down the stretch.

The third set was more of the same, as Dartmouth fell behind 15-5, and fought back to 27-26 before losing 30-27.

For the match, Dartmouth was limited to a meager .102 hitting percentage, compared to .262 for Cornell. Middle blocker Ashley Stover led the Big Red with 13 kills and outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop added 11. Cornell also notched 12 blocks to a mere 2 for the Green. For Dartmouth, Nadler recorded 15 kills and 30 digs for another double-double. No other player added more than five kills for the Big Green during the game.

As for the substitutions, the players remained united behind the coach's decision and proud of the performance of the inexperienced freshmen. Said Sheffield, "I wasn't surprised by the subs. It was the right thing to do at the time. Even though we beat Columbia, sometimes you have to change the players to get the best team performance. Everyone that came in has contributed a ton in practice and deserved a chance to prove themselves and show that they belong on the court."

Added Parris, "Everyone who was put into the game played awesome and kept us together when we were falling apart. And everyone on the bench, no matter how frustrated, supported everyone and stuck together. It was a learning experience for everyone."

Dartmouth returns to action this weekend with its final two home matches. Friday night, the Green takes on Yale at 7 p.m., before returning on Saturday afternoon versus Brown at 4 p.m. in Leede Arena.