Women’s volleyball off to a winning start

The team won the Dartmouth Invitational for the first time since 2015 on Sept. 9 and 10.

by Katherine Shannon | 9/20/21 2:10am

Source: Courtesy of Doug Austin

The women’s volleyball team is off to a strong 8-1 start following its return to competition. The Big Green opened their season with the Lehigh Steel Tournament in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They secured wins over SUNY Binghamton (3-0), Lehigh University (3-2) and St. Francis College (3-1). 

Continuing its sweep, the team hosted the annual Dartmouth Invitational Sept. 9th and 10th, facing off against the University of New Hampshire, College of the Holy Cross and the University of Connecticut. The Big Green secured 3-1 wins in close matches against all three opponents. The invitational success marked the first time that the Big Green had won the tournament since 2015. 

Following the tournament, rookie Emma Engstrom ’25 was named the All-Tournament and tournament MVP, and was also named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. Her performance at the Dartmouth Invitational ended with a total of 15 assists and an impressive 65 digs. 

This past weekend, the team traveled to West Hartford, Connecticut for the Hartford Invitational to close out tournament play for the season. The Big Green emerged victorious against Hartford (3-1) and Central Connecticut State (3-2). However, they suffered their first loss of the 2021 season against Sacred Heart (1-3). 

The team’s successful start to the season comes after a slow year for sports in the Ivy League. The 2020-2021 school year saw the suspension of all athletic competition within the conference, and the Big Green has been excited to get back into play. 

“We really appreciate every day that we get a chance to be together with the team in the gym and on the court,” said volleyball head coach Gilad Doron. “So far, it’s been a really good experience to have the players back in the gym and having fun and enjoying being together and competing.” 

Despite the hiatus, Doron noted that the time the team had to reflect and prepare has served them well so far this season.

“During COVID, even though we were not allowed to be together, we did a lot of team building and team bonding and talked about the ‘why’: why we are here, why we are training, why we get better,” he said. 

Players on the team also reiterated how excited the entire team felt about getting back on the court together after a year-long break.

“There’s definitely a feeling that we missed out last season, so it makes it that much more exciting to be back playing right now,” said team captain Emma Moffet ’22. “We also have basically two new freshmen classes and a whole new team. It’s been fun to get back in the gym and compete.”

With two new classes of players starting their Big Green athletic careers, there is a sense that this season is a fresh start for the team. Talented young players like Engstrom join seasoned upperclassmen who are eager to dive back into competition. 

“We have both freshmen and sophomore players on the team like Karen Murphy and Ellie Blain — those are players that came in very motivated freshmen year,” Doran said. “We also have returning players like Makenzie Arent ’23 and [Moffet] doing well. The sophomore class came up really prepared and in good shape.”

Beyond the addition of new players, the opportunity for team-building over the past year and current preseason has only added to the team’s current success. 

“Our team is really close off the court, too. We all really know each other well, and we’re kind of doing it for each other. Overall, we just really care about each other and want to win together,” said Moffet. 

With only one loss against Sacred Heart on its record, the Big Green is looking forward to further success this season. The team has a full schedule of Ivy League conference games in the coming weeks, starting with a showdown against Harvard University this Friday. As the new players on the team continue to find their footing, the team has high hopes for the rest of the season. 

“One of our goals is to be the best defensive team in the league and just have a defensive mindset and go for every ball,” Doran said. “It’s hard to build goals when you don’t have any correlation with 10 new players on the court. So our goal is to just measure ourselves against ourselves every day, and hopefully get better and better.”

Sophomore captain Karen Murphy ’24 echoed the rest of the team’s anticipation for the rest of the volleyball season in the wake of their impressive record. 

“I think the main goal is to continue. This is definitely the best start we’ve probably ever had. We had never even won our invitational for a while. We’re still keeping high expectations, but not trying to look over any of our opponents.”

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