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October 19, 2010

Weekend Woes for Volleyball

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A bumpy weekend that saw sloppy play cost the volleyball team two important conference matchups and has the Maroons shaking their heads as the final stretch of the season approaches.

Chicago went 2–2 in the final UAA Round Robin this weekend in Boston, leaving them with a 4–3 conference record and the fourth seed in the UAA Championships in November. The Maroons were victorious over Case and Carnegie, but lost to higher-ranked NYU and Emory, spoiling the South Siders’ weekend.

“We did not play our best, to say the least,” third-year Colleen Belak said. “We didn’t play up to our potential. We didn’t do a lot of the fundamental things that make us a good team and that led to our problems.”

Chicago (22–7, 4–3) opened its weekend Saturday morning against 14th-ranked NYU (25–3, 6–1), whose only loss in their previous 16 matches had come at the hands of second-ranked Emory at the last Round Robin.

The Maroons struggled defensively against the Violets, a problem that would plague them throughout the weekend, as NYU coasted to a 25–14, 25–22, 25–14 win.

“NYU had an excellent weekend,” Belak said. “They looked really strong, although we made them look a lot better than we really should have. It was just a tough game. We didn’t play Chicago volleyball.”

A sour day almost turned worse for Chicago in the afternoon match against Case (19–7, 4–3), as the Spartans came back from a two-game deficit to force a fifth game. Eventually the favored Maroons were able to wrap up the 25–23, 25–13, 22–25, 19–25, 15–11 win.

Looking to wrap up the weekend with a strong Sunday, the Maroons first took the court against Carnegie (11–13, 2–5), who played Chicago in five- games twice last season. It was the same story this time around. Chicago dug out of an early hole to win 22–25, 25–23, 17–25, 25–23, 15–12.

The Maroons hit just .115 for the contest, another pattern that hurt them throughout the weekend, as the Tartans’ strong defensive line tested the South Siders’ hitters.

With the long-awaited clash with Emory (20–4, 6–1) coming up Sunday afternoon, the Maroons were looking to close the Round Robin on a high note, and Chicago played what Belak called their best match of the weekend. While the Maroons went point-for-point with Emory through much of the contest, the Eagles walked away with a 27–25, 25–21, 19–25, 25–22 win.

A victory over the Eagles would have left Chicago in a three-way tie for the second-best record in the conference, but the final result left the Maroons sitting at fourth.

The problems added up for Chicago this weekend, as the Maroons needed strong service return to stay afloat as their defense and hitting faltered at times. The Maroons also fell behind early in several games—including their victories—a pattern the team is hoping to smooth out over the final weeks of the season.

“It’s hard to pinpoint [what went wrong],” Belak said. “It was just a domino effect. When something doesn’t go right, something else doesn’t go right, and it just happened that a lot of things didn’t go right this weekend.”

NYU won the weekend, going 4–0, including a comeback win over top-ranked Wash U on Sunday. Emory also left Boston undefeated, meaning that the Eagles and the Violets will have the first and second seeds in the UAA tournament, with Wash U finishing third after a disappointing 2–2 weekend.

With three weeks before the UAA tournament, the Maroons like their chances in the conference—if they show up better than they did this weekend.

“As long as we play as well as we’re capable of, which we did not this weekend, we can definitely come back,” Belak said. “Whoever we play in the UAA, we are capable of beating.”

Before they get another shot at the conference’s best, though, Chicago plays Dominican (12–13) Wednesday, with the action starting at 7 p.m.

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