Women's volleyball takes second at Dartmouth Invitational
Although the Big Green managed to score two convincing victories against the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Robert Morris University in Saturday's competition, an emotional Friday night loss to Harvard that ended in a 15-13 fifth game cost the Big Green first place in the Dartmouth Invitational and soured an otherwise encouraging weekend.
Before a revved up crowd at Leede Arena in that match, the Big Green (6-6, 0-2 Ivy) dominated the first two games (30-21, 30-22), playing some of its best volleyball of the season. A game away from taking the match and avenging a four-game loss to the Crimson (8-5, 2-0 Ivy) just a week earlier, however, Dartmouth gradually unraveled and Harvard seized the momentum and the last three games (30-27, 30-16, 15-13).
On the heels of Tuesday night's three-game loss to the University of New Hampshire, in which the Big Green was unable to hold late leads in both the second and third games, co-captain middle blocker Nadine Parris '06 acknowledged that finishing games and matches has been a continued problem for the team, and something Dartmouth will need to ameliorate for it to succeed in Ivy League play this season.
"Practice this week was focused on decreasing unforced errors and pushing to finish the game when the score hits the 20s," said Parris, who notched 36 kills on the weekend to earn All-Tournament honors. "And I think we all felt this was a major problem in the Harvard match.
"Looking at how we finished the weekend with large wins over NJIT and Robert Morris University, I can honestly say that I don't see this as a weakness for much longer," continued Parris.
In Dartmouth's first game Saturday against NJIT (3-13) -- playing in its first season at the Division I level--the Highlanders were overmatched and overpowered against the Big Green. Dartmouth racked up 47 kills and a .228 hitting percentage, to NJIT's 27 and .033, as the Highlanders committed 23 costly hitting errors.
Behind 11 kills from Parris and a double-double of 10 kills and 11 digs from outside hitter Jess Thomas '09, Dartmouth rolled, sandwiching a close 30-27 second game between two easy frames (30-19, 30-18).
The Big Green managed similar success against a more competitive Robert Morris squad. Besides a hiccup in the third game, Dartmouth won the other three games easily, taking the match 30-23, 30-15, 27-30, 30-19.
"In our games today we played with a lot of heart," said Hirsch, who also garnered All-Tournament accolades after totaling 147 assists over the weekend. "Our communication levels were higher and we were having fun, so much fun on the court."
Hirsch's characterization of Saturday's matches could easily have described the Big Green women in their first two games against Harvard, when Dartmouth shined in every facet of the game. In the first frame, the Big Green sided out on a remarkable 77 percent of points and tallied 22 kills to only four errors, leading 19-12 and 26-16 before winning the game.
After capitalizing on sloppy play from the Crimson to win the second game easily, however, Harvard came roaring back into the match, edging Dartmouth in an evenly played third game. Perhaps deflated from the close loss, the Big Green struggled mightily in the fourth, hitting more errors (12) than kills (10) in a brutal 30-16 loss.
Dartmouth rebounded in the decisive fifth game to take an 8-5 lead, but Harvard battled back and earned a two-point win as a spike from the right hand of Thomas sailed out of bounds.
Thomas led the Big Green with 19 kills and 32 digs, while outside hitter Megan MacGregor '10 recorded 18 kills and libero Amanda Marston '10 made 30 digs.
"It was an extremely emotional match, and an extremely emotional loss," Parris said.
Harvard went on to win both of its Saturday afternoon matches to take first place in the Invitational.
Dartmouth will look for a reversal of its early Ivy results and a replication of its Saturday successes when the Lady Green hosts Princeton on Friday at 7 p.m. and Penn on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Leede Arena next weekend.