Women’s volleyball looks for boost from talented freshman class
The Dartmouth volleyball team dropped three games at home this weekend.
After a fifth place Ivy League finish last year, this year’s volleyball team looks to draw on new talent, veteran experience and heightened focus to surprise the league with a top-three finish. The road to the podium, however, will not be easy.
The Big Green had a promising start to its season, posting a tournament win at the University of North Carolina at Asheville last weekend. But this weekend, the Big Green returned to Leede Arena and dropped matches to Hofstra University, the University of Hartford and Fordham University, ultimately going 0-3 in its first home games of the year. With just one tournament left before the start of Ivy League competition, the Big Green will look to revive its first-weekend success and carry it throughout the season.
According to Elise Petit ’21, one of the reasons that the team was so successful in its first outing was because of its court chemistry. Graduating just two players and bringing in five new ones, the Big Green seized its opportunity to create a positive team dynamic off the bat — a fact that, according to Petit, puts it a step ahead.
“I’ve never been on a team that’s so good on the court together,” she said. “We don’t have to take the time to adjust to playing with each other — we already have that down — so we just have to make sure we can actually execute our game plan, play volleyball and get some wins.”
Included in this five-person freshman class are Makenzie Arent ’23, Ali Silva ’23 and Grace Wiczek ’23, all of whom have made an immediate impact. After the first weekend of play, Arent, a setter, came away with Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors after posting nine kills, 21 digs, three blocks and 35 assists in her first collegiate tournament. This weekend, Wiczek put down a team-leading 33 kills. Silva added three service aces against Fordham, helping the Big Green to its first set victory of the tournament in its final match.
Along with a talented freshman class, the Big Green boasts a strong contingent of returning players. Though Dartmouth graduated Second Team All-Ivy libero Zoe Leonard ’19 — a significant contributor to last year’s defense and leadership — this year’s first-string libero, Bella Hedley ’22, is off to a strong start, earning tournament MVP honors at UNC Asheville. Aside from Leonard, who led the team in digs last year, the Big Green returns each of its category leaders, including kills leaders Nicole Liddle ’22 and Petit. And despite the fact that the strength of younger players may push veterans toward the bottom of the depth chart, according to Doron, the seniors’ leadership is admirable.
“I think we have really strong upperclassmen leadership,” head coach Gilad Doron said. “The captains, Maddy [Schoenberger ’20] and Abby [Kott ’20], lead by example. The [entire senior class] fully bought in — whether they play or whether they don’t play, they’re here for the right reasons, they’re here for Dartmouth volleyball, and they want their legacy to be left as a better program than what they came to.”
This leadership will be put to the test right from the beginning of Ivy play, which the Big Green opens with five consecutive road games. After a 1-6 road record in last year’s conference play, the Big Green has a renewed urgency on the road due to the makeup of its schedule. One of the Big Green’s main goals for the season is to beat each Ivy at least once. According to Doron, conference road games are always tough — especially given the strength of the conference, which is formidable. However, he and Petit both echo that if the Green and White play its game, winning on the road is possible.
“If we can be excellent on our side, it doesn’t matter where we are, it doesn’t matter if there’s no one in the stands or our fans in the stands or 1,000 of our opponents’ fans in the stands, if we can kind of handle our end of things then we should be able to pull out some wins,” Petit said.
With its impressive roster of newcomers and returning players, the Big Green hopes to make some noise in the Ivy League this year — and Doron thinks his players have the hunger and ability to do so.