Volleyball rolls past Kenyon and Denison, improving to 11-3


Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

As CWRU’s volleyball team beats Kenyon, third-year libero Alyssa Blessinger serves the ball and leads the team in digs, continuing the Spartans’ win streak.

Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor

On Sept. 24, the Case Western Reserve University volleyball team defeated Kenyon College (3-0) and Denison University (3-2), extending their winning streak to three games. The squad improved to 11-3 overall, remaining undefeated at home.

“It was a great weekend for us traveling down to Columbus, playing [teams] we don’t play regularly,” said head coach Karen Farrell.

The Spartans opened Saturday against a struggling Kenyon team, who held a 1-10 record. The Owls came out strong and took an early 11-7 lead in the first set before the Spartans closed the gap. After trading runs, first-year middle blocker Kiya Levy tied the score 22-22. Kenyon scored the next point, but CWRU came back in three straight bouts to win the set 25-23.

Unlike the first set, CWRU established strong control of the second set with an early 11-2 run. Kenyon was unable to answer and CWRU took the 25-14 win.

The Owls, desperate to escape their 0-2 hole, fought tooth and nail in the third set. The two teams went back-and-forth, tying 13 times to reach an even 16-16 score. From there, the Spartans settled in and closed out Kenyon. Kills from third-year middle blocker Jennifer Ngo and second-year Rea Marfatia led the Spartans to the 25-20 set victory.

Ngo recorded a team-high 12 kills while Marfatia finished with 10 kills and nine digs. Fourth-year setter Sara Rogers tallied 23 assists and 11 digs while third-year libero Alyssa Blessinger led the team with 13 digs.

“It was a pretty close score all the way through,” added Coach Farrell. “Though we felt like they were in control of the match, [we] widened the gap at the end of their sets … That was our 10th win, which is kind of a nice number to get this early in the season.”

The second match of the weekend was a different story altogether. Though Denison stood with a record of 5-8, they forced CWRU to play some of their best volleyball of the season.

The Spartans rolled through the first two sets 25-16 and 25-18. Marfatia led the charge in the first set, recording two consecutive kills to seal the victory. Blessinger and third-year defensive Specialist Hannah Fox were instrumental in pulling together a 9-2 run to overcome an early 3-point deficit in the second set. Denison fought back and trimmed the Spartan lead to 20-16, but Marfatia put a quick stop to that with a kill and two service aces. First-year outside hitter Kalli Wall put the finishing touches on the set win with a kill.

The Big Red roared back in the next couple of sets, clinching 25-15 and 25-21 victories to even the match to 2-2. CWRU committed multiple attack errors and gave up kills, looking like a completely different squad from the first two sets.

“We had some third set blues, which we’ve seen our team go through,” reflected Coach Farrell on these miscues. “[But] we were able to continue to work through that.”

Denison owned the momentum heading into the decisive fifth set. They had an 11-7 stranglehold on the Spartans and were only four points away from an impressive comeback.

CWRU persevered and scored four straight points to even it to 11-11 with two kills and two blocks. Fox gave the Spartans their first lead of the set with an ace and Marfatia followed with a kill to make it 13-11. Denison answered the 6-0 CWRU run with a kill but Ngo and Marfatia blocked an attack to reach within a point of the victory. Marfatia and first-year middle blocker Amanda Ngo combined for a block to secure the 15-13 set win and the 3-2 match win.

Wall totaled a career-high 14 kills and Rogers recorded 26 assists with 10 digs. Ngo and Marfatia contributed seven and four blocks, respectively, to the Spartans’ 12 as a team.

“We had to really scratch and claw back from 5-10 and 7-11 … We had some really strong serving by Hannah Fox and some really strong blocking up front,” said Coach Farrell. “[It was] a really exciting 15-13 victory in set five. That’s the second time we’ve done that this year and it’s kind of an adrenaline rush.”

The Spartans will participate in the second UAA Round Robin on Oct. 2. Hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the event will feature conference matchups against Brandeis University and New York University. This is an opportunity for CWRU to improve upon their 1-2 conference record.

“[Brandeis] is having a great season,” remarked Coach Farrell. “They have a couple new players and a much stronger attack … [NYU] is a very, very talented, very balanced, very very strong team ranked in the top 10 in the country, so we have our work cut out for us this weekend.”