Volleyball skids down to home stretch to end season

by Ben Reed | 11/15/04 6:00am

To the chagrin of the Dartmouth volleyball team's four seniors, the squad saw an often frustrating season come to an appropriate conclusion this weekend with two painful losses at Leede Arena.

On Friday night, the team (6-18, 3-11) lost the last three games against the Penn Quakers after a comfortable first game win. In a hotly contested five-game battle against the Princeton Tigers Saturday, Dartmouth came up just short.

Despite the losses, however, head coach Ann Marie Larese was proud of the way the team fought, exhibiting the never-say-die attitude the Big Green has shown throughout the season.

"The team played very hard all weekend long and showed the potential to compete at the highest level in the league," she said. "I believe our team continued to compete until the last point was scored on Saturday."

In Friday's match against Penn (15-10, 7-6) the Big Green came out firing, taking the first game 30-23 after a late surge. In the games that followed, however, Penn began to wear down the Dartmouth attack with its huge block, causing the Green offense to unravel at times. For the match, Penn outblocked Dartmouth 16 to 6.

Able to jump out to leads with some important strings of points--including nine in a row on the serve of Cara Thomason in the third game--Penn managed to hold off some late Dartmouth rallies to take the next three games (30-27, 30-28, 30-24).

Outside hitters Sandy Barbut '08 and Sarah Nadler '06 each registered double-doubles for the ladies in Green. Barbut had 15 kills and 15 digs, while Nadler notched a match-high 19 kills to go along with 14 digs. Middle blocker Frances Samolowicz added 12 kills, while libero Diana Szczepanski '05 recorded 19 digs in her last match in a green and white uniform.

For the Quakers, Thomason led the way with 17 kills and a match-high 26 digs, while setter Linda Zhang had a match-high 56 assists.

On Saturday, Dartmouth gave one of this season's Ivy elites all it could handle. Princeton (18-7, 9-4), vying for a share of the Ivy League title, lacks Penn's huge block, but relies on speed and quickness on defense and a balanced and efficient attack to win match after match.

In a defensive war in which neither team could overpower the other, the match seesawed. Princeton took a close first game with a late rally (30-25), before Dartmouth countered with a 30-25 second game win. After the Tigers dominated the third game, winning by a comfortable ten-point margin, Dartmouth bounced back yet again in the fourth, outblocking Princeton for a 30-25 win.

In the fifth game, however, Princeton managed to snag five consecutive points and cruise to a 15-7 victory to take the match.

Princeton middle blocker Alex Brown had a spectacular match, notching a game-high 27 kills and 6 blocks to lead the Tigers to victory as one of only two Princeton players to hit above .200 for the match.

Middle blocker Katie Frett '05 led Dartmouth with 16 kills and 5 blocks, while Nadler notched 12 kills and matched a career-high 35 digs.

The end of the season also meant the end of the careers of four Dartmouth players, middle blocker Katie Frett, middle blocker Renee DeLellis, defensive specialist Szczepanski, defensive specialist and setter Katie Allan.

Larese recognized the importance of senior leadership this season with as many as four freshmen starting for the team.

"The seniors are a tremendous group of people whose maturity and leadership guided our young team through this very exciting, competitive and challenging year."

And while the volleyball program will certainly miss their contributions--including 813 games played, 396 kills, 119 assists, 1,503 digs, 96 service aces and 153 blocks--the departing student athletes will miss the competition even more.

"Dartmouth volleyball has meant the world to me in that I was able to play on a court next to some of my best friends wearing a uniform representing an institution I really respect and love," said Frett.

"I will miss being a part of something that is bigger than just myself," added DeLellis. "This year's team was so amazing because every person brought out the best in the other players and knew how to work hard together and play hard together."

While the season didn't turn out the way the players had hoped, the players are optimistic about the team's future. With freshmen stepping up and leading the team at several positions, there should be some familiar Dartmouth faces on the court for the next few seasons. With last season's All-Ivy honorable mention Nadler also back for her senior season, the Green hopes that by next year the team will be ready to turn around its recent struggles.

"We look forward to getting revenge against all of the Ivy schools next season," said setter Katie Hirsch, whose all-around skills earned her an Ivy League Rookie of the Week award earlier this season. "By next year we will be even more comfortable playing with each other and everyone on the team will be a more experienced player."