Despite Slow Season, Volleyball Looks to Impress in Season-Ending NCAC Championship Tournament

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Despite Slow Season, Volleyball Looks to Impress in Season-Ending NCAC Championship Tournament

Oberlin women’s volleyball players gather around College second-year Lauren Fitts.

Oberlin women’s volleyball players gather around College second-year Lauren Fitts.

Photo Courtesy of OC Athletics

Oberlin women’s volleyball players gather around College second-year Lauren Fitts.

Photo Courtesy of OC Athletics

Photo Courtesy of OC Athletics

Oberlin women’s volleyball players gather around College second-year Lauren Fitts.

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As their season comes to an end, Oberlin’s varsity volleyball team has one more opportunity to seek success after a relatively slow season. The team hopes to defeat their North Coast Athletic Conference counterparts in an attempt to receive an automatic bid to move forward into the NCAA Division III tournament. Seeded eighth out of nine teams, the Yeowomen (1-7) will travel to the Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, OH tomorrow, home of the previous NCAC league champions Wittenberg University.

Wittenberg (8-0) has the first seed, has earned this honor for the past 12 seasons — winning 24 NCAC titles in all — and snagged it again after a 14-game conference winning streak. Despite the differences in success between the nine competing teams, College second-year and outside hitter Natasha Radic explained that the tournament can produce very surprising results.

“I feel as though the work goes into getting a good seed [during the season], but then the real competition comes in the tournament, where it’s win or go home,” she said. “I think that our team is filled with talented individuals and that especially this year in our conference there is a lot of unexpected variability, and I think Oberlin is a team [that is] adding to that.”

Their first face-off against No. 5 seed Hiram College (4–4) today. Conveniently, Hiram is the most recent opponent that the team has faced.

College fourth-year and setter Samantha Lam said that much of the team’s preparation has been centered around the loss against Hiram.

“We have been watching film from the previous match [against Hiram] to pinpoint what exactly their strengths and weaknesses are and figuring out ways we can combat those,” she said. “We’ve been especially stressing to everyone on the team that, because this is literally the end of the season, nobody should be holding back, and that 110 percent effort and energy is needed from everybody both on the court and on the sidelines.”

The tournament is particularly high stakes for players who are graduating. Of the 11-person roster, four are seniors.

“This tournament is especially exciting this year being that I’m a senior,” said College fourth-year and outside hitter Maura Gibbs. “I am really going to miss playing with my teammates every day and this is our final weekend playing together.”

This season’s seniors have also cultivated an especially close team environment. The chemistry has been strong, despite having lost three seniors after the 2018 season.

“I think because we’re [closer] on and off the court, and I feel a lot of closeness in this team that built on how close our team was last year,” said Radic. “Our seniors this year are doing a great job of picking up where our captains left us last year and pushing everyone else to work hard and play hard by leading by example.”

If the Yeowomen beat Hiram at their 4 p.m. game today, they will go on to face No. 4 seed DePauw at 7:30 p.m., with only a few hours to recover.

“This tournament of course means a lot to me as a graduating senior,” Lam said. “I’ve been playing volleyball since third grade, and this tournament will be a culmination of all the years of work I’ve put into practices, all the hours of driving to tournaments that my parents had to do, and all the memories with teammates I’ve played with up until now. I have no idea how I will react when we finish, but I’m sure it involves some amount of tears.”

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