All season long, the women’s volleyball team has had a knack for pulling through at exactly the right time.
The clock finally struck midnight, however when the Bombers lost their Empire 8 Conference tournament semifinal in straight sets to the Stevens Institute of Technology on Saturday.
After a 3–1 run in their final four regular season conference matches, however, the Bombers were able to secure the No. 3 seed for the Empire 8 tournament in Elmira, N.Y., last Saturday. But the South Hill squad promptly dropped its final two regular season matches against SUNY-Fredonia and Hiram College.
When the Bombers got to Elmira, junior Syline Kim, right side hitter and team co-captain, said the Blue and Gold were once again plagued by the same issues that frustrated them all season.
“[The problem] was definitely communication with other members of the team,” Kim said. “Mostly playing defense or passing, if we just talked a little more and called out whosever ball it was, it would have definitely made the game a lot more close and easier for us.”
Another reason for the team’s lackluster finale, Bombers Head Coach Janet Donovan said, was the Bombers’ inability to pass and serve, which acted as a catalyst for other issues.
“When we couldn’t pass or serve, it kind of threw the rest of our game off,” Donovan said. “When our passing was off, our attack was off also.”
One thing Kim and Donovan did like about the Bombers’ performance against Stevens was how the team managed to rally their way back into the match after falling behind early, even if they couldn’t do it fast enough to claim any of the lost sets.
“We definitely started to pick it up during the middle of the matches,” Kim said. “It was too late to win it but we started to play together more.”
Donovan said the Bombers’ late rallies are a trend she’s noticed more and more often during the second half of the season.
“Earlier in the season, if our passing was off early on, we didn’t have a lot of fight,” Donovan said. “As the match went on, we fought harder, we started to serve tougher and we started blocking better.”
After a 13–15 overall mark during the regular season, the Bombers finished without a winning record for the first time in 20 years. However, Donovan said she was proud of her team for improving over the course of the season as much as it did, given the roster’s youth and lack of experience.
“Last year at this time with a very experienced group, we were not even playing, we didn’t make the conference championship,” Donovan said. “We had a much better record, but we didn’t perform in the conference weekends when we needed to.”
Donovan said the Bombers will have enough healthy players to hold a spring season with actual tournament competition instead of just practicing with the few healthy returning players they had left. Last spring, the Bombers’ roster was limited by injuries, including a torn ACL suffered by Kim.
“We had a lot of individual training, but we didn’t have a normal opportunity to play in a spring tournament,” Donovan said. “This year we’ll have it, because we have a lot more returners than we had last year.”
Senior outside hitter and team co-captain Marissa Weil won’t return next year, but Weil said she thinks the Bombers have learned some valuable lessons in communication and teamwork that should make them a team to watch next season.
“Our team has learned a lot this year in communication and just trusting each other,” Weil said. “It’s a great group of girls, and they’re young players, but they’re going to be playing together for the next couple years. They’ll definitely have an advantage next year because of learning this year.”