After weeks of whetting their appetites in preseason games and just a few days after the official opening of Ivy League play, the volleyball team has found itself in a quandary. Boasting an 11-1 overall record (2-0 Ivy), an athlete who has thrice been recognized by the Ivy League, and a rugged corps of players that have been clicking as if they had been playing together their entire lives, it seems illogical, nay, impossible, that there could be anything the matter with this year’s squad.
Yet, the Red views things a little differently.
“I feel like we have not had a chance to truly show our stuff yet,” head coach Christie Roes said. “Our team is really excited to be challenged this weekend, and begin to show the league what we are really made of.”
An argument could be made that the Red has not experienced much of a challenge thus far. Notwithstanding a hard-fought early preseason loss to Seton Hall, the spikers have been virtually unstoppable in their systematic dismantling of opposing squads. The Red is currently riding a 10-game win streak, a stat made even more impressive considering the fact that it has not lost an individual game in its last 14 contests.
What seems to set the Red apart this season is the philosophy of a well-balanced and intelligent game. Instead of simply relying on the offense to control games and overwhelm the opposition (although it does both remarkably well), the players devote considerable time to studying the competition and perfecting their defensive approach. In addition to consistently out-blocking opponents, the Red has been averaging better than a .200 hitting percentage in all of its 12 matches thus far, one of many positive results stemming from the squad’s meticulous attention to detail in practice.
“We’ve had some really good practices this week,” sophomore libero Kelly Kramer stated. “Staying at home this past weekend gave us a chance to get some rest, and now we’re ready to go for another weekend.”
In the midst of a five-game home stand, Kramer and the rest of team are reaping the benefits of opening the season with 10 straight road contests. Yet, the Red will have to draw on both the experience away from home and the added rest, as it gears up to face a gritty Dartmouth (6-7, 0-2 Ivy) squad tonight and perennially talented Harvard (3-9, 2-0) tomorrow at Newman Arena. Having warmed up with two lopsided sweeps of Columbia last weekend, the Red’s competition this weekend will be much tougher, and may just be the challenge that Roes and company are searching for.
“What always worries me about Dartmouth is that they always have a lot of character,” Roes said. “They play well together, are scrappy, and will fight it out until the end.”
The Red looks to extend its current win streak over the Green, whom the Red has beaten in their last five meetings. Coming off of two weekend losses to Harvard, the Green is looking to rebound behind the dangerous offensive duo of Sarah Nadler and Kainoa Fialkowski. Conversely, the Red has struggled with the Crimson recently, having difficulty containing 2002 Ivy League Player of the Year Kaego Ogbechie in two losses last season. Ogbechie, a junior outside hitter from Diamond Bar, Calif., will again provide the backbone of a Crimson offense that has averaged 13 kills and 1.7 service aces per game.
“We know Harvard better this year than last year,” Roes stated. “They don’t have any secret weapons anymore, because we’ve prepared for everything that they have.”
The added experience and depth on the Red’s roster should also play a role in turning the tide against the Crimson.
“We’re another year older and more mature,” assistant coach Steve Loeswick concurred.
The Red’s match against Dartmouth begins at 7 p.m. tonight at Newman Arena, and tomorrow’s matchup against Harvard is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen