Through their first four games of the 2018 season, the Case Western Reserve University volleyball team is an even 2-2.
The Spartans kicked off their season with the Ohio Northern Tournament on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, winning one and losing one each day.
In their season opener, the team beat Defiance College in four sets. The Spartans had a balanced offensive attack, with three players recording at least 10 kills each, led by third-year outside hitter Karley King with 12. Second-year libero Anna Jaskoviak had a team-high 22 digs to pace the defense in the back row. Third-year middle hitter Haley Sims dominated the middle of the court, recording kills on 12 of her 20 opportunities with only one error and blocking four total balls.
The second game of the day against Thomas More College proved to be more of a challenge. This time the Spartans were on the wrong side of scoreboard, falling in four sets. Thomas More’s offense was too deadly for CWRU to handle. They converted almost 30 percent of their offensive opportunities while the Spartans were successful only on 16 percent of theirs.
King again led the offense, this time managing 13 kills. Second-year middle hitter Katie Kaminski had seven kills. Defensive specialist Karina Bondelid had nine digs and third-year outside hitter Brianna Lemon had eight. Ellis contributed 18 assists.
“[Thomas More is] just very, very good in all aspects of the game,” Head Coach Karen Farrell said. “They’ll do quite well this year.”
On the following day, CWRU opened against host Ohio Northern University, a team ranked 19th in the country. The Spartans won the first two sets, but the top-20 team stormed back to win the next three sets and take the match.
Lemon finished with 16 kills, while King again had 13. Third-year setter Faith Ellis notched 30 assists and Jaskoviak led the team with 27 digs. Lemon also added 20 digs. Second-year defensive specialist Alara Suctu had 16 digs.
“[Ohio Northern] just out-offensed us,” Farrell said. “But I thought we competed very hard… We were solid, they were just better.”
Against a top-25 team, it is hard to complain with such a competitive outcome. Even though the result didn’t fall their way, Farrell was proud of the level her team played at.
The Spartans finished the tournament on a high note, sweeping Bluffton University 25-23, 25-17 and 25-20.
Lemon had a team-high 10 kills. Ellis had a solid game, with 19 assists and six digs. Sims finished with eight kills and two blocks.
Farrell was extremely pleased with the play of the team. They beat the teams they were better than and competed against nationally recognized teams.
Through the first four games, it seems that the team’s success depends on one stat: kill percentage. In every one of the Spartans’ games, the team with the higher kill percentage won. This does not come as surprise, since games are often won based on who can hit at the net better.
In the season preview, Farrell discussed the battle for the second setter position. It looks like second-year setter Jordyn Harberts won that battle, at least for the time being. Harberts walked on to the team this year after a year playing club volleyball. Her height and skill set earned her the nod as a regular rotation player.
Jaskoviak is adjusting to a new position this year but has shown no signs of weakness. Farrell praised her serve-receive abilities as well as her positive, motivating attitude on the court.
The Spartans will return to the court on Sept. 7 and 8 at home for the CWRU Invitational.