Volleyball Gets Back on Track with Two Wins


Photo Courtesy of OC Athletics

Junior outside hitter Lexi Mitchell has been the most dominant offensive player for the Yeowomen. She’s been named to the all-conference squad twice.

The Oberlin College volleyball team picked up a pair of wins Saturday against Franciscan University and La Roche College, giving them confidence and momentum heading into another busy weekend filled with four games. 

“We had a great week of practice and worked on making some adjustments from the previous weekend,” Head Volleyball Coach Erica Rau said. “We focused a lot on our communication, and that definitely came through [this past] weekend.” 

The wins snapped the Yeowomen’s three-game losing streak, bringing their record up to 3–3. Senior Captain Sara Chang said the team is beginning to heat up at the right moment.

“I think this momentum will carry us into this weekend when we have four matches, and hopefully some wins this weekend will carry us into conference play, which starts next week,” Chang said.

The Yeowomen were able to put together a dominant showing against Franciscan, going 3–0 (25–18, 25–13, 25–6) against the Lady Barons. The team was led by junior Maura Gibbs’ imposing 19-point serving run.

“She had an integral part in both games, but this was particularly special,” senior Emily Kelkar said of Gibbs’ performance, which also included a team-leading 12 digs. 

First-year Natasha Radic, junior Lexi Mitchell, and Chang also had strong showings, registering seven kills apiece against Franciscan. 

La Roche put up a strong fight in the Yeowomen’s second game of the day but were ultimately handed their only loss of the weekend. When the dust cleared, La Roche’s valiant efforts were not enough to keep the Yeowomen from taking the match 3–1 (25–20, 25–20, 24–26, 25–22). 

“We played to their weaknesses very well, and didn’t get discouraged when things weren’t going our way,” Chang said of the resiliency displayed by her teammates. She was quick to highlight the play of Kelkar, who paced the team with 17 digs, and junior Samantha Lam, whose 20 assists tied Chang for the team high. Other key players against the Red Hawks included Gibbs, who led the team with 18 kills, and Mitchell, who finished second on the team with 17 kills of her own.

Overall, the weekend’s matchups with Franciscan and La Roche showcased a lot of positives for this year’s squad.

“I actually think a big key to our success this weekend was that everyone was on, playing well and working well together as a unit,” Rau said.

After handling their business on the court this past weekend, the Yeowomen look toward the upcoming games. The team’s main goal this season is clear.

“[Our big goal is] definitely to have a winning season,” Chang said, and the Yeowomen appear poised to do just that. 

Chang, Kelkar, and senior Julia Ingoglia lead a group that Rau believes is the most talented she’s ever had. Aside from the three seniors, Gibbs, Mitchell, and junior Jaya Flynn-Young have all continued to improve their game each year. Despite the impressive collection of talent that has carried over from last year’s team, the most intriguing aspect of the season is the expected progress of the team’s newcomers. 

“Our first-years are amazing,” Rau said of the five-person group. 

One of the early standouts has been Radic, who has seen a lot of playing time early in the season and has done enough to impress her more experienced teammates.

“She is a good all-around volleyball player, and I believe she has the potential to impact the team in a lot of really good ways,” Kelkar said.

The rest of the first-years show promise as well, and Kelkar said she believes that all of them will have a profound impact on the program for the next four seasons. Off the court, both Kelkar and Chang applauded junior McLean Sammon for bringing the upperclassmen and the first-years together through team bonding exercises.

Last weekend’s wins against Franciscan and La Roche got the Yeowomen’s season back on track, but more importantly — with the leadership of the upperclassmen and the potential of the first-years — the program looks like it could be heading toward successes it hasn’t achieved in years.  

“I believe this team has a lot of potential and the ability to have a winning season because of our talent and strong work ethic,” Kelkar said. “We are able to support each other while also holding each other to a higher standard, and are constantly learning and growing as people and teammates. I am so excited to make this season the best yet and am so grateful for all of my teammates.” 

Rau said she can’t help but imagine the possibilities of the Yeowomen’s future.

“We will have a lot of success if we continue to put the work in and progress as a team,” Rau said. “It’s still early in the season, but it’s hard not to get excited about the future for this year’s Oberlin College volleyball team.”