Volleyball returns from Atlanta humbled, hungry

Volleyball+returns+from+Atlanta+humbled%2C+hungry

Shannon Snyder

Tricia McCutchan goes up for one of her 19 kills against CMU. McCutchan is the Spartans’ leading attacker, averaging over four kills per set.

Peter Cooke, Sports Editor

Case Western Reserve University’s volleyball team returned from the first UAA Round Robin hungry and humbled. The squad went 1-2 over the weekend in Atlanta, GA; pushing their record to 14-5 overall and snapping their 11-match winning streak. The Spartans were able to notch a sloppy victory over UAA bottom-dwellers Carnegie Mellon University in their first match, but fell to nationally ranked New York University (21-3, 2-1) and Emory University (16-2, 3-0) in their following matches.

The UAA has traditionally been dominated by the No. 3 Eagles and the defending national champions, No. 1 Bears of Washington University (17-0, 3-0). The two squads have combined for the past three NCAA championships and WashU has won 10 of the past 21 titles. The UAA also is home to No. 17 University of Chicago (19-5, 2-1) and No. 23 NYU.

The Spartans have continually put themselves in position to break into the top 25 and become nationally ranked, something which they’ve never accomplished in the history of the American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings. Heading into the weekend the Spartans were “nervous” but excited to test themselves in the nation’s best conference.

For a team that finished fifth in the UAA last year and came into the weekend with a 10-match win streak the team got off to a bumpy start against the Tartans (9-9, 0-3). The squad limped in the match and dropped the first set 25-14. The surprising lost jump-started the Spartans as they bounced back to win the next two games, 25-19 and 25-15. CMU would even the score in the fourth 25-21 but CWRU was able to finish strong, taking the decisive fifth game 15-9. The match came as a much needed, but much maligned win as the team had hoped to make a statement with a strong win over last year’s sixth place team.

The Spartan’s defense was led by libero Rachel Gulasey whose 21 digs led the team’s five players with double digits saves. The team’s widespread defensive efforts are a key factor for their 20.03 digs per set, 18th in the nation and tops in the UAA.

“Our first UAA competition showed that we have the ability to compete with the top teams in the country, but winning at the level is a challenge but an attainable goal,” said sophomore Allie Palmer.

CWRU stormed back against a competitively matched NYU squad. The Spartans won the first game 25-21 but ended up dropping the next two sets 25-15, 25-19. With the match on the line the Spartans notched the fourth set 25-19, but failed to finish, losing 15-10 in the final set.

Sophomore setter Breana Freeman posted 44 assists in the match, Freeman’s 10.01 assists per set is 38th in the nation. Sophomore Allie Palmer led the Spartans with a team- and season-high 15 kills.

“The NYU match was exciting because we were able to align our attacking strengths with the weaknesses in their defense. The outcome was obviously a disappointment but it proved our team’s potential,” said Palmer.

The Spartans then matched up with juggernaut Emory, who came into the match sweeping both of CWRU’s earlier opponents. The Eagles came out strong and the Spartans tried to contend but were eventually outmatched, 25-15, 25-19, 25-19.

The Spartans head to Muskingum University this Saturday for a tri-match where they will also play AVCA ranked No. 15 Heidelberg.

Palmer isn’t scared of the Spartan’s third nationally ranked team in a week, “We’re going into the Heidelburg match determined and confident. Everyone understands the importance of playing well against a top ranked regional team and we’re using this opportunity to show that we’re the team to beat.”