Volleyball split its first weekend of NESCAC play this past weekend, falling short to Wesleyan and getting their first conference win against Trinity. These matches bring the team’s overall record to 4–2 and their NESCAC record to 1–1. In the 2021 season, the Wesleyan Cardinals consistently posed a serious threat, giving the Jumbos two of six losses for the year. Additionally, the Cardinals knocked the Jumbos out of the NESCAC tournament in the semifinals, before eventually losing to the top-seeded hosts, the Bowdoin Polar Bears, in the NESCAC championship. In 2021, both matches were hard-fought battles that went to five sets. This year’s contest was no different. Despite losing in three sets, each set was within single digit points, with the Jumbos and Cardinals trading off the lead frequently (21–25, 23–25, 24–26). The Cardinals improved their record to 5–0, positioning themselves as tough competition and big targets for their next matchup with the Jumbos. Junior middle hitter Brittany Bennet said the speed of game against Wesleyan challenged the team.
“As always, it's good to play some great ball with some teams that challenge us even if the outcome isn't always exactly what we'd be looking for,” Bennet said. “Recently, we've really been trying to challenge ourselves in practice, in terms of speed. And I think the teams that we played this weekend were up to our level in terms of game speed more than some other teams we've played. It's a good challenge for us and also just gives us some clear things that we want to work on going forward.”
Junior outside hitter Christine Audette led the squad in kills with an impressive 14 for the night. Senior outside hitter Maya Lightfoot was a close second, recording 11. Due to injury, the team’s assist leader, junior setter and co-captain Maddie Yu, was not on the court this weekend. First-year setters Zoe Gregory and Ella Norris stepped in and Gregory posted 21 assists against Wesleyan.
In Saturday’s matchup against the Trinity Bantams, the Jumbos looked strong from the start, with better communication than the night prior and holding a more cohesive team defense. The Bantams kept up, however, exchanging leads with the Jumbos and even taking a set to force a fourth (26–24, 23–25, 25–20, 26–24).
Bennet elaborated on what worked for the team.
“Both Friday and Saturday, we really stepped up with the team defense both on services and blocking,” Bennet said. “I think we really were able to make the job easier for our back row players and our setters, which allowed us to run a lot faster offense.”
Bennet recorded five blocks (three solo) at the net. Audette was a force both defensively and offensively, leading the team in digs with 15 and tied for the lead on kills recorded with junior outside hitter Rileigh Farragher with 14 apiece. Norris and Gregory rose to the occasion once again with 24 and 19 assists respectively.
As the Jumbos head into another competitive weekend of on-the-road play, Bennet said the team is still finding what works and trying out some things.
“We're always looking to … try things that you know, our opponents haven't seen before,” Bennet said. “But that also means things we haven't done before ourselves. So we're really just working to try and iron out some of the kinks of new strategies that we've been working on, and hopefully we'll get to put some of those to use this coming weekend.”
The team will travel to and take on Coast Guard this Friday at 6 p.m. The following day, Wesleyan will host a day full of volleyball with the Jumbos playing NYU at 12 p.m. and Susquehanna at 5 p.m.