Women’s volleyball mulls over missed chances

by Matt Case / Beacon Staff • November 11, 2015

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The women’s volleyball team finished the season ninth in the NEWMAC, two places away from a playoff spot.
via Beacon Archives
The women’s volleyball team finished the season ninth in the NEWMAC, two places away from a playoff spot.
via Beacon Archives

Head coach Ben Read and his volleyball players are still trying to process the season. 

After going 2-8 in conference play and 12-13 overall, the women’s volleyball team finished ninth in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, which takes the top seven to the championship tournament. 

“If we would have pushed a little harder, maybe had our players been healthy, we definitely could have won more,” sophomore libero Sam Harton said. “We easily could have had six wins in the NEWMAC instead of two.”

Harton said there are matches Emerson wishes they had back, including blown leads in matches that instead went to four and five sets. 

“There comes a point where it’s not enough to say we played well and we were close,” Harton, a writing, literature and publishing major, said. “We have to pull out the win and you have to come together as a team and succeed.”

Harton led Emerson with 408 digs this season, and ranked fifth in the conference in that category. 

She said she and her teammates often felt frustrated during practices and games, which caused them to play below their potential. 

“I think once we remember that we’re here to enjoy ourselves, and play the sport because we love it, that’s when we’re going to start playing at our best,” Harton said. 

Before NEWMAC action began in mid-September, the women were 4-3, including victories over Lasell College, Lesley University, and Western New England University. 

Read said his squad wasn’t where they needed to be, heading into the games that mattered the most.

“At the beginning of the year I think we were timid,” Read said. “We were afraid of making mistakes and possibly losing a game instead of making the other teams earn their points.”

Emerson lost three of its first four conference matchups before defeating Smith College 3-0. In a doubleheader four days later, they beat nonconference opponents Curry College and Suffolk University in straight sets too. 

Read said the team drastically improved their offense, heading into the bulk of their schedule.  

“We might have been swinging too aggressively and might have gotten blocked or made some attack errors,” Read said. “But at least we were in a more aggressive mindset trying to win the game rather than not lose it.” 

After three consecutive wins, their longest streak of the season, they then lost three in a row with each contest going five sets. Two of those matches were NEWMAC meetings.  

“It’s hard, and it is disappointing. It takes a toll on your mental game,” freshman middle blocker Kelley Guerra said. “But you have to keep going because there’s nothing you can do about the last game or the last point.”

Guerra finished second for Emerson with 205.5 points and 157 kills. She said her team’s flaws were based outside of their matches.

“A lot of times we may lose focus in practice,” Guerra, a political communication major, said. “It’s definitely not bad when we joke around in practice but sometimes it can affect how we play in games.”  

The Lions ended its drought in its next match, a nonconference game, beating Simmons College 3-0. The following match they fell to the United States Coast Guard Academy and were officially knocked out of postseason play. 

“After we lost to Coast Guard and realized we weren’t going to make the playoffs it was definitely hard to stay motivated in practice because that was our initial goal for the season,” Harton said.

After the Coast Guard game, Emerson won two nonconference matches before losing its final three matches of the year, including a 3-0 contest against nationally ranked NEWMAC competitor Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“There are good hitters, there are great blockers, and great defensive players,” Guerra said. “You can’t get mad at a team when they’re doing really well. Sometimes a team just outplays you.” 

Despite having a worse NEWMAC record than last year at 4-6, Read said he is pleased with the season, and believes the team is closer to reaching the tournament. 

“We were competitive with every team we faced. We were that close to beating some really good teams,” Read said. “We’re right in there, that’s the difference from last year.”

With two years left on the roster, Harton wants to do more than make the postseason.  

“I think our coach would be satisfied with us making the playoffs, but I think a lot of us players want to go further than that,” Harton said. “I think we’d all be happy if we got to the playoffs but a lot of us really want to prove to the NEWMAC that were not just a silly arts school. That we’re actually a force to be reckoned with.” 

The Lions, graduating two seniors, will projectively have 13 returning players next season. 

“Returning the bulk of our players will raise the expectations of what we want to do next year,” Read said. “Everyone on our team understands what we can do—what we need to do—to get there.”