Women’s club volleyball capatalizes on opportunity, makes the most of it with fifth-place finish
With the women’s club volleyball team claiming second this past year at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) tournament, the women earned an automatic bid for this years’ tournament. That automatic bid paid dividends for them since they went the whole spring semester without winning a match.
Despite this, the Lumberjacks went into the tournament, held in Kansas City, Mo., and finished fifth in the nation.
“We really came together as a team,” said sophomore libero Sarah Hobbs. “We hadn’t won a game all semester and then we were undefeated until the championship [pool]. Something worked.”
The NCVF included 168 women’s teams from all over the country, and the Lumberjacks were in a group of 36 teams in the Division I AAA gold bracket. Some of the teams included in the bracket were Harvard University, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Gonzaga University and California State University-Long Beach.
“We had talked about [the losing record] at our last practice,” Hobbs said. “[We] said to forget the rest of the semester and just turn it around. Even at that first practice [in Kansas City], we were a whole different team.”
The women went into the tournament with realistic expectations, given the results of the season so far, hoping to play as a team and enjoy the experience.
“Not winning kind of hinders our team chemistry,” said sophomore setter Chelsea Johns. “So, we wanted to just forget about everything, just go together, have fun [and] be a team.”
The women began the tournament against the University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils. After dropping the first set 23–25, the Jacks battled back and took the final two sets 25–10 and 15–13.
“I was used to losing, so I was like, ‘Hopefully, we win the second game and go into a third game,’” said sophomore outside hitter Monica Garceau. “We just decided that we were gonna win.”
The club followed up the win against the Blue Devils with a straight set victory over Indiana University-South Bend and a three-set triumph the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
The second day of pool play was the start of the championship rounds, and the women had a tough task in front of them in the form of Harvard and LMU.
“We hadn’t played [LMU] all year and we played them a few times last year and they beat us every time,” Garceau said. “So, I was definitely intimidated by them, especially in warm-ups . . . It was a really good win.”
Hobbs had her own reasons to beat LMU, because one of her high school teammates plays for the LMU club.
“The libero on [LMU's] team, which is what I play, was at my high school,” Hobbs said. “I wanted to beat that team so badly. I needed to show her that she couldn’t beat us . . . you could see the competitiveness between us. We were serving each other and we wanted to win that game so bad.”
With the team making it into the championship bracket of the tournament, they took time to enjoy the moment before the final rounds.
“I don’t think I stopped smiling that whole rest of the day,” Johns said.
“I choked up after beating Loyola Marymount, actually, I teared up a little because we were so proud of our team,” siad Hobbs.
Riding high on emotions and going 5–0 in Nationals so far, the women geared up for the Gonzaga Bulldogs in their first match of the final day of championship play.
“We had gone into it a little bit cocky, because we had won the last two days,” Hobbs said. “We were still trying to focus on just ourselves, so we weren’t coming together as a team as much.”
Garceau, Hobbs and Johns both agreed that while finishing fifth was great and the team was excited, the thoughts of last year’s second place finish are still fresh.
“Last year we got second in a higher division; that was a better outcome,” Hobbs said. “It’s still nice to know that we can pull through, always.”
As for the experience as a whole, the team enjoyed the trip and the environment of the tournament, but could not take in the Kansas City experience because of a tight schedule.
“It was insane. There was no atmosphere like it, honestly,” Johns said. “All those college people playing the same game that we all like to play.”
Johns and the team did have a chance to take admire some of downtown Kansas City between their matches and practices.
“I liked it. I thought it was really pretty,” Johns said. “We didn’t get really to go explore a lot because we had a tight schedule with playing, but I liked it, a lot. It was really pretty from what we saw. We were close to downtown. ”