– November 16th, 2012 by Shannon Hutchins –
Volleyball wins NAC title
The Charger volleyball team this year was a “very young team” according to Head Coach Brett Sayer because of the fact that the program only graduated one senior last year. The team started off a bit inconsistent and had a rocky few opening matches to begin the season.
But Sayer always knew that his team could rise to the level of their opponents and rise they did. The season culminated with the team defeating University of Maine at Maritime to reach the promised land in getting a birth in the NCAA Division III playoffs, as well as snagging their second North Atlantic Conference title in two years.
While the team ended its season with a record of 18 wins and 14 losses, which is a stark contrast to the usual dominant win total and play over the course of the season. Junior Courtney O’ Hara said, “this year’s record was not as good as previous years, but we played almost all of the teams that were ranked in New England,” and she characterizes this season as “one that was full of chalk new experiences from (the) opening preseason games in California to the ranked opponent play.”
O’Hara argues that the young team got better as the season wore on and the team really tried to build upon the successes of previous years. Sayer said, “A good portion of the season was spent on the team finding out a lot about themselves, and as the season wore on we found our identity.”
A lot of that soul searching paid off down the stretch because such bonding experiences helped the team play better as a team, and it helped the team correct mistakes that they had made in the beginning of the season, according to Sayer.
The key to winning the NAC title in Sophomore Sarah Hannon’s mind was the fact that “we had played Maine Maritime previously in the season, so we had a good idea of how they played…and we used the game stats that are recorded of every game to adjust our defense to the type of offense that they ran, and we worked on shots that we perceived would keep them on their toes.” Such adjustments were made because of the fact that the team members found themselves and their identity over the course of the season, and that helped tremendously in Sayer’s mind.
By winning the NAC title, the team also clinched a playoff spot in the Division III playoffs where the volleyball team was one of 60 teams that beat 100 others to win the honor of playing in the playoffs.
O’Hara was “thrilled to win the title because it gave us the opportunity to play at the next level in the NCAA’s.”
For the second straight season the volleyball team’s season ended in heartbreaking defeat in a three set to zero match, and Sayer said that SUNY Courtland, who was ranked 17th in the nation at the time played “a consistent game,” and he felt as though the SUNY team went on several runs that the Charger team didn’t have an answer for.
O’Hara thought that their opponent was “a tall and aggressive team whom we struggled against in games two and three when we were trying to find a rhythm. Also, they are a smart team who is good at picking out the weaknesses of their opponents.” As a result of that, “We struggled to return their serves…and even when we were successful in that regard our setter Laura Smolinski struggled hitting around their blocks and their scrappy defense.
Despite the defeat the team and coaching staff know that for the most part they can consider this season a winning one, and when looking back on it they can point to the fact that they won the NAC title, reached the NCAA playoffs for the second straight season, and they got “two monkeys off our backs,” according to the coach. This season the Chargers beat Keene State twice which they had not done in five years, and they also beat Endicott which the team had not accomplished in seven years.
Hannon, O’Hara, and Sayer all agree that the team, who will not graduate anyone from the program this year, will not rest on its laurels and they expect the team to get to know one another further throughout the offseason, learn to live and play together as a team, and will come back refreshed when spring practices and games begin back up.