Despite the excitement and advantages that come with playing on their home turf, the women’s volleyball team faced some major difficulties this past weekend in the Days Inn Blue Jay Classic. The Blue Jays lost all four of their games in this home tournament, which brought their season record to 7-9. Senior captain defensive specialist Jen Cook admits that there are “games we look back on and think we could have done certain things better,” and last weekend’s games will surely be added to that list. First-year outside hitter Allie Traynor feels that “each of the matches we have played so far in the season has taught us something. We’ve learned from the mistakes in [prior] games,” so hopefully the team will be able to learn from and push past these tough losses in order to work towards their upcoming Landmark conference matches.
The opening match against Lebanon Valley College, a team Cook referred to as the Blue Jays’ “biggest [prior] conference rival,” and one that many players were eager to face. “We know LVC really well. Because of that, we especially want to beat them,” Cook said. Despite losing in a three game fight against LVC, the close games scores provide evidence that the Blue Jays were aware of LVC’s style of play and tendencies.
The first game, with a final score of LVC 27 and Etown 25, went nearly point for point, until the Blue Jays pulled ahead by five points after a kill by junior outside hitter Megan McNaul. Lebanon Valley however, followed up with four points, bringing the score to Etown 20 and LVC 19. The rest of the match was almost a continual back and forth until LVC scored the last three points to win the game. Etown started out strong in their second game, but lost the lead again. The third match was again nearly point for point until LVC won by two.
Notable performances in this match against LVC include senior captain middle hitter Kelci Scannapieco’s 17 kills and six blocks, as well as first-year middle hitter Brittianni Phillips’ seven kills. McNaul also brought in six kills, three aces and 10 digs. Junior setter Steph High had a solid 33 assists and 12 digs, with junior defensive specialist Shannon Deck totaling 11 digs. Considering LVC’s past record of 9-2, the Blue Jays’ performance was commendable.
Following this loss, the Blue Jays took on Swarthmore. Swarthmore won the first game by four points, and Etown fought to win the next two games by three and four points, respectively. Swarthmore stole the fourth match by four points, and won the last game by 10, thus winning the match. Within these five matches, Traynor was able to contribute career highs of 20 kills and 18 digs, and Scannapieco totaled 19 kills along with four blocks. High also contributed with her career high of 50 assists, and Deck brought in 26 digs.
The following day, the team was not able to shake off their losing streak and lost to both New Paltz and Johns Hopkins. In their games against New Paltz, junior setter Brynne Kirsch, who stepped in after High got injured, acquired 12 assists compared to High’s 8. Other notable performances include Deck’s 18 digs, along with senior defensive specialist Taylor Beck’s 14. Scannapieco was able to get 10 kills and three blocks, with McNaul and Traynor acquiring eight and seven kills, respectively.
In their last match of the tournament, the Blue Jays were beat out by Johns Hopkins in three games. Despite a consistent effort and a few great point streaks, the Blue Jays could not hold their own in the first set. Etown lost the second set by 15 points, and were unable to recover in the third, losing 20-25 and thus losing the match. Traynor totaled six kills, and Scannapieco had five kills and four blocks. Kirsch contributed seven digs and 11 assists along with Beck’s eight assists. McNaul and Deck each had eight digs.
Scannapieco stated that the team “want[ed] to focus on getting a lead early on in the match and maintaining that lead.” After reviewing the games played in the tournament, it appears that the Blue Jays were able to get ahead by a few points in several of their games, but their leads were not strong enough. As Scannapieco said, the team will need to learn to keep fighting once they have acquired a lead.
Despite their losses, Scannapieco remains optimistic. “Our team is on the upside of the learning curve and we are starting to combine our thought patterns with our footwork,” she said. Traynor said the team is “going to do [their] best to keep working together and getting better as an overall team with every game.” This four-game losing streak just might be a wake-up call for the women’s volleyball team as they enter into the start of their Landmark Conference matches.
Cook is equally optimistic. “We’ve gotten better as a whole team since our first match and we plan to keep improving throughout our entire season,” she said. Looking to the future, the team has the right attitude for a winning season. Their focus thus far in the season has been on working toward their conference games. Unfortunately, this was not enough in the match against Moravian College, as the Jays lost 1-3. Game scores were 23-25, 25-22, 21-25 and 19-25. The Blue Jays rallied together toward the end of the fourth and final match, but their efforts fell short of a win to push the match to five games. Etown will face tough competition this weekend against Juniata College and Susquehanna University.