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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Conference record brings team down

The volleyball team’s slow start to its season cost it a chance to defend its Empire 8 Conference Championship and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

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From left, SUNY-Geneseo sophomore outside hitter Alex Wende gets blocked by junior setter Marissa Woodcome in the Blue and Gold’s match Oct. 26 in Ben Light Gymnasium. The Bombers defeated the Knights in three sets. SHAWN STEINER/THE ITHACAN

Unable to achieve its primary goal for the preseason, the team is looking to receive a bid to the Eastern College Athletic Conference Metro-Upstate Tournament, which it won in 2009. The Bombers’ mark of 4–3 in the conference puts them in fifth place out of eight teams, but they still hold the fourth best overall record in the Empire 8 at 21–15.

The Empire 8 standings are determined by seven games over two weekend tournaments during the season. The Blue and Gold’s four-set loss to St. John Fisher College in the opening game of the second Empire 8 Crossover on Oct. 21 eliminated them from playoff contention.

Senior middle blocker Karin Edsall said it is frustrating that the conference playoff berths come down to performing well in two tournaments, rather than the whole season.

“If you have one bad weekend, and it comes at the wrong time of the season, you’re screwed,” she said.

Empire 8 Conference officials are adding a third weekend of conference play starting next season, which could have greatly benefited this year’s squad, as they would have played a more balanced schedule that alternated between conference and non-conference opponents.

After starting the season with a disappointing 9–10 record, the Bombers faced rival SUNY-Cortland, which had been ranked 15th in the nation, on Oct. 5. The Bombers fell to the Red Dragons in five sets.

Senior outside hitter Chelsea Hayes said the rivalry between the two teams brought out the best in the Blue and Gold.

“We tried to play up to their level of competition instead of just rolling over to them,” she said. “We did that and realized we could play with them and we could have beaten them.”

The Bombers had been shuffling their lineup until the match against SUNY-Cortland, with junior Marissa Woodcome and Edsall splitting time at the setter position. But Edsall became the team’s full-time setter, while Woodcome switched to libero, the defensive specialist and the only player who is not required to rotate on the court.

Hayes said the steady lineup has helped everyone determine their own capabilities.

“You learn who’s going to take what ball, and you learn what different people can and can’t do,” she said.

Through their match against SUNY-Cortland, the Bombers were 1–4 in five-set matches, but went 4–1 in five-set matches the rest of the season.

Hayes said grabbing the momentum early in the fifth set was critical to the team’s success.

“The fifth set is more mental than physical,” she said. “We realized that if we could bring our mental game to those 15 points, we could come out on top.”

The Blue and Gold recovered quickly from its loss to St. John Fisher College, defeating Hartwick College and Stevens Institute of Technology the next day.

Senior middle blocker Kate Thoene, who had a team high of 14 kills against Hartwick, said the team played with a more relaxed attitude after the loss to St. John Fisher.

“After losing the one game this weekend that kicked us out of E8s, we’ve been playing like we’ve had nothing to lose,” she said.

SUNY-Geneseo Head Coach Jen Salmon said the Bombers looked like a different team in their three-set sweep Oct. 26 in Ben Light Gymnasium compared to when they lost to the Knights in five sets Sept. 10.

“They were more confident and cohesive,” she said. “They were picking everything up, and they were definitely a better blocking team than we saw last time.”

Edsall said the Bombers are looking to take the momentum they generated in the second half of the season and carry it over to another ECAC title.

“We can still go to ECACs,” she said. “It’s not as good as NCAAs, but it would be a nice finish to the season.”