The volleyball team fell short in their first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament at Wittenberg last Thursday, losing to Hope in three sets. While the loss marked the end of their 2010 campaign, it was hardly the end for a Chicago team that has shown plenty of potential for the future.
“The groundwork has been laid; now we need to build off it,” head coach Vanessa Walby said.
Hope came on the attack early in Thursday’s contest, taking a commanding 14–2 lead in the first set and eventually winning 25–12, while the Maroons looked to smooth out their serve receive and offensive accuracy.
“I think nerves set in,” Walby said. “The other team was a fantastic team. They were very competitive, and they did a good job of keeping the ball in play, and we just had a lot of unforced errors.”
Chicago found its form late in the first set and into the second set, which Walby described as the most complete stretch for her team. The Maroons cut a 14–9 lead down to one at 23–22, but Hope closed out the set to take a 2–0 lead.
In the final set, Chicago took its first lead of the match, getting out to a 5–3 lead. Passing and hitting mistakes once again proved costly, however, as errors helped Hope take control of the game and coast to a 25–15 victory.
“[We] did come out strong again in the third game and we just kind of struggled around point 10 or 11,” Walby said. “We just had a couple of bad passes, and once our passes were there, our offense struggled to find the court. We weren’t really able to put them out of their system that much.”
Hope outhit Chicago throughout the match (.287 to .064), as the season-long issue of consistency troubled the Maroons Thursday evening. The Flying Dutch, who qualified for the Final Four in each of the previous two seasons, were eliminated in the next round by Wittenberg.
It was an abrupt end to the season for the most successful team in Chicago volleyball history, but after Thursday’s contest, Walby said her team was looking to capitalize on the NCAA experience for the future.
“We just kind of talked about how this is something that we need to be building off, and if we don’t learn, then we should be content with this being the best season Chicago ever has,” Walby said. “But [the players] looked like they want to build on this experience and this is not something they want to settle for. They want to have this experience quite often.”
The Maroons matched their all-time best for wins in a season this year with 30 victories, and en route to the historic finish several Maroons reached season milestones as well. Third-year Isis Smalls, who was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Midwest Region Team, broke the school record for kills in a single season, finishing with 490, and she also set a new career mark for kills, with 1,251 in her three seasons at Chicago. She now holds the first-, fourth-, and 11th-best single-season marks for that category.
Third-year Lauren Tarpey also broke the school record for assists in a season with 1,523. Defensively, second-year Sam Brown posted the second-best dig total for a single season, with her 711 digs finishing behind only her own performance last season, while second-year Katie Trela’s 155 blocks were good for second all-time.
With just two seniors graduating this year, Walby said the Maroons will be looking to achieve several of the same goals as this year—hopefully with a longer postseason.