Volleyball ends its season just as it began -- with wins
In its final two matches of the season and the last for graduating seniors Katie Hirsch '08, Sandy Barbut '08 and Frances Samolowicz '08, the Dartmouth women's volleyball team swept through league rivals Cornell and Columbia at home on Friday and Saturday. The wins assured the Big Green (15-9, 8-6 Ivy) of fourth place in the conference, its best finish in eight years.
Dartmouth had not recorded a winning record in league play since 2000, when it finished 4-3.
The team bids farewell to three seniors who were instrumental to the team's success this year. Co-captain Hirsch finished second in the Ivy League in service aces, with 0.51 per game, and fourth in assists, with 11.38 per game. No other Dartmouth player averaged more than one assist per game. She was named Ivy League player of the week for the week of Sept. 18.
"It's bittersweet," Hirsch said. "It hasn't set in that I won't put on a Dartmouth jersey again. All in all I'm so grateful to play on this team. It's weird because the time has gone by so fast."
Co-captain Barbut '08 was Dartmouth's top multi-tool player, posting impressive stats on both offensive and defense, including 2.63 kills per game, 64 total blocks and 317 total digs. She was Ivy League player of the week on Sept. 25.
Also graduating is middle blocker Frances Samolowicz '08, one of the team's most consistent performers. Samolowicz's attack percentage of .287 was good for eighth in the league.
Dartmouth's seniors anchored a team that put together its best record in years. The Big Green opened up the season on a tear, winning five straight against conference rivals and establishing high expectations for the season. Dartmouth could not maintain its momentum through its middle stretch of matches, however, allowing undefeated Princeton to clinch the league title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
"We set really high goals for ourselves," Hirsch said. "The whole team thought we would win the Ivies. A few slip-ups here and there cost us."
Despite the late-season skid, Dartmouth's graduating seniors are proud of the outstanding run the team put together at the start of the season, as well as the team's tremendous growth.
"When the '08s came in, we had three Ivy wins. The amount the team has improved is amazing," Hirsch said.
In Friday night's match, Dartmouth beat Ivy defending champion Cornell (8-16, 5-8 Ivy) for the first time since round-robin play was instituted eight years ago.
"One of my goals for senior year was to beat Cornell," Barbut said. "It was kind of a dog fight. We even talked some smack during the match. Those are the fun kind of matches."
The teams were neck and neck for the majority of the match, excluding the third game. Two games extended beyond the 30 point regulation, and there were 33 points at which a game was tied. Megan MacGregor '10 sealed a 30-25, 32-34, 30-19, 32-30 victory with a service ace to end a tight fourth game.
As it has all season long, Dartmouth put up a balanced team effort in the win. Five players tallied double-digit kills -- Barbut, MacGregor, Samolowicz, Jess Thomas '09 and Morgan Covington '10.
The Big Green completed the weekend sweep at home on Saturday afternoon against last-place Columbia (3-22, 0-13 Ivy). Aided by dominating performances by Barbut (12 kills and 13 digs) and outside hitter Jess Thomas '09 (16 kills, 13 digs), and by Kelsey Johnson '11's soft touch at net, Dartmouth cruised to a 30-17, 27-30, 30-16, 30-28 win.
Behind individual top-ten performances by Thomas and Amanda Marston '10, Dartmouth finished first in the league in total digs (1492).
Next year's team will feature several returning starters, including Thomas, Covington, Marston, and MacGregor. The Big Green is also expecting a strong incoming freshman class.
"I fully expect next year's team to now have the maturity and experience necessary to pull through at those tight moments and finish even better in the league," Samolowicz said.
Barbut is also confident about the team's prospects.
"The league should be scared for what's to come next season," Barbut said.