Spartan volleyball splits, spoiling senior sendoff

Every year senior day is bittersweet, but it was particularly so for this year’s Case Western Reserve University volleyball team, as they only managed to win one of two matches. They played well enough to defeat The College of Wooster Fighting Scots 25-17, 25-16, 25-21, but were unable to overcome the Bethany College Bison losing 22-25, 24-26, 25-23, 21-25 at Horsburgh Gymnasium on Saturday, Oct. 31. Before the second match, head coach Karen Farrell honored each of the team’s five seniors with an individualized poem.

At the beginning of the first set against Wooster, the Spartans jumped out to an early eight point lead on the strength of an impressive 9-0 run. After a minor comeback trimmed the lead to five, CWRU finished the set powerfully, winning five of the final seven points.

In the final two sets against the Fighting Scots, CWRU was unable to find their groove and did not seem to settle in. “We were having a hard time generating points,” said Farrell. “It took us a little while to hit a stride … We didn’t execute as well as we should have.”

Only one player on the squad, third-year outside hitter Marian Barton with 11, managed to eclipse 10 kills. CWRU leaned on their strong defense, led by fourth-year libero Katie Best (11 digs) and first-year defensive specialist Andrea Lu (13 digs).

During the second set, there was a time when Wooster had all the energy and momentum. Then, the Spartans, riding the impressive serving of Best and Lu, went on a 9-2 run to take a seven point lead, effectively putting away the set.

The third set began slowly as well, though the Spartans managed to gain a small, early lead. After a Wooster time out reenergized their team, the Fighting Scots came back to eventually tie the set at 18. CWRU closed out the tough set by winning seven of the final 10 points. A key to closing the Fighting Scots out was blocking up front, led by fourth-year middle hitter Haley Kauffman (3 solo blocks).

Following the long break, the Spartans did not fare well against the hard-hitting Bison. “We just couldn’t quite get those last few points we needed in any set,” said Farrell, which has been a strength of the team all season. The first three sets were all tied late and the fourth was close throughout.

The Spartans and Bison were tied at 12 different points in the first set, the most of the match, as neither team achieved more than a three point lead. For CWRU to compete with Bethany’s aggressive attack, they needed the strong defense of Best (32 digs), Lu (15) and first-year defensive specialist Karina Bondelid (19), with Best and others diving all over the place to reach balls. In the end, the Spartans were unable to effectively hit around the Bethany block, a recurring part of the match, and dropped the set.

After an early CWRU lead, Bethany went on two separate 7-0 runs to take an 18-9 lead in set two. The Spartans managed to find holes in the Bison defense and came all the way back to tie the set at 23. Kauffman led the charge with 17 kills and first-year setter Shannon Carroll contributed 36 assists. However the Spartans dropped the set.

A close, third set victory gave CWRU hope of a comeback, but it was not meant to be as Bethany took the final set. Overcoming fatigue, both mental and physical, CWRU fought against the rising tide of momentum to pull within two, 21-23. Bethany’s exceptional play and bounty of energy helped them close the match out.

The Spartans will face the University of Rochester on Friday, Nov. 6 in the quarterfinals of the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships held in Rochester, NY, followed by a match against either Washington University or New York University. An opponent to be determined will oppose the Spartans on Saturday, Nov. 7 to conclude the season.

CWRU defeated Rochester at home earlier in the year 25-23, 25-18, 25-20, in a match that was closer than the score indicated.