Volleyball wins two out of three games in California season opener

The Big Green traveled to the University of California, Irvine and swept its first two matches against Sacred Heart University and the College of Holy Cross, but lost in its last match against the Anteaters.

by Caroline York | 9/19/22 2:00am

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Source: Courtesy of Ava Roberts

Big Green volleyball kicked off its season at the University of California, Irvine Invitational on Sept. 2 and 3. On Friday, the team won the opening game against Sacred Heart University in a four-set game (23-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-21). On Saturday, the Big Green won the second game in three straight sets (25-12, 25-8, 25-15) against College of the Holy Cross but came away short 0-3 against UC Irvine (25-19, 25-12, 25-23).

The team finished 15-8 (7-7 Ivy League) in 2021, which was the Big Green’s most winning season since 2011Piper Stevens ’25 said that the team finished strong last year and took wins in the last five out of the six Ivy League games.

“We had all around a great preseason, but we then had a tough time on the road,” Stevens said. “Then, about halfway through, we were really able to find a good rhythm and finish out on top.”

The team’s performance at the UC Irvine Invitational is promising:  Ellie Blain ’24 registered 19 kills against Sacred Heart, close to her record of 21. Blain had the most kills for the Big Green in the tournament with 29 overall and the most aces with two overall. In her first collegiate tournament, Ava Roberts ’26 led the team in kills against UC Irvine with a new career high of eight. Amelia Gibbs ’24 led the Big Green in blocks with nine in all three games.

Dartmouth started the first game against Sacred Heart strong with a 10-2 lead, but lost the first set 25-23  due to a late scoring run from Sacred Heart. In the second set, the Big Green had another early 3-2 lead, which they kept the entire match. The team almost doubled their hitting percentage between the first and second sets, going from  .186 to .303. The Pioneers led the third set 17-10, but a kill from Gibbs helped the Big Green battle back to a 21-20 lead. A final kill from Natalie Grover ’24 helped Dartmouth win the third set. The final set included eight ties. After a kill by Blain and an ace by Roberts, the Big Green captured a 17-15 lead that lasted to the end of the winning game.

The following day, Dartmouth took on Holy Cross and UC Irvine. The Big Green dominated the Crusaders in three straight sets. Though Holy Cross held an early 7-6 lead, Dartmouth owned the next seven of eight points and controlled the remainder of the set with an easy 25-12 win. Dartmouth breezed through the second set with kills from Gibbs, Gutz, Molly Power ’26 and Stevens. The Big Green easily took the set 25-8. Power completed three of four kills in the third set and helped Dartmouth win 25-15, closing the game.

“The first two wins were great; we came out strong out of the gate,” Roberts said. “It was a great start to really focus on creating that team chemistry that we need for the season.”

Later in the day, Dartmouth took on tournament host UC Irvine and lost all three sets. While the Anteaters started on an early 10-3 streak, the Big Green bounced back to claim seven of the following nine points with kills from Blain and Gibbs. However, UC Irvine ultimately took the first set after regaining momentum. The Anteaters’ strong offense dominated the second set and took a 25-12 victory. The Big Green worked to change the tides in the third set with multiple toss-ups. Although initially trailing behind by four points, kills from Blain and Karen Murphy ’24 tied the game 22-22. The Big Green eventually fell 25-23 to the Anteaters after a kill and ball handling error.

Head coach Gilad Doron emphasized the team’s great ability to play cohesively with less than two weeks of training before the tournament.

“We gathered on Aug. 19, and we only had 12 days to prepare for the California trip,” Doron said. “We have committed players who find the time to do the workouts and stay in shape while they're doing the internships or sophomore summer.”

Doron said that he is optimistic about the rest of the season, especially after this tournament.

“It was great to see the team’s resiliency and playmaking ability, which allowed us to beat [Sacred Heart and Holy Cross],” Doron said. “I was really proud of the team's continuous improvement through the match.”

Roberts, who played in her first collegiate tournament in California, said she is looking forward to growing from these games. 

“I learned a lot playing with a new kind of speed against older, powerful and tall girls,” Roberts said “We were able to see what worked in the first two games and the loss helped us understand what didn't.” 

Despite losing to UC Irvine in California, Dartmouth has since dominated on the East Coast, winning six out of seven of their past games to establish an 8-2 record. Dartmouth will travel to Cambridge, Mass. on Sept. 24 to face off against Harvard University for its first Ivy League game.  

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