Volleyball Shows Progress Despite Injuries

Robert Hull

The Oberlin volleyball team continued to show that they can be competitive with anyone on the court, playing tightly fought matches at the Marcia French Invitation at Case Western Reserve University and at home against Muskingum University this past week.

On day one at Case, the Yeowomen started off with a tight loss to Franciscan University, 29¬–27, 27–25, 25–22. First-year Emma Kimmel proved her worth as a terrific addition to this year’s team, tallying 10 kills and 11 digs. Senior Liz Wong continued to fill the role of a veteran anchor, putting up 12 assists, four digs and three block assists.

In the nightcap, Oberlin fell by a score of 25¬–15, 25–16, 25–14 at the hands of the powerful John Carroll University Blue Streaks. Another strong performance by a first-year, this time Jenna Bange, paced the Yeowomen. Bange tallied nine assists for the game.

Day two began with a 25¬–23, 25–7, 25–13 loss to high-flying Blue Jays of Johns Hopkins University, but ended on a positive note when Oberlin took a game from Westminster College in a 25–18, 22–25, 25–16, 25–14 defeat.

First-year Christine Antonsen’s 31 kills on the tournament paced an Oberlin attack that was facilitated largely by Bange, who had 54 assists. Senior Lizzie Orfaly’s 34 digs across the four matches made her a defensive powerhouse.

On Wednesday night, The Yeowomen played hard enough nearly to overtake the visiting Muskies from Muskingum College, but ended up falling in a 25–14, 25–27, 25–16, 25–11 loss. After dropping the match’s opening game, the Yeowomen rebounded in excellent fashion to snag the competitive second. But the Muskies were not to be caught. They took a tightly contested third game before wearing down the short-handed Yeowomen in the decisive fourth.

The victory raised the Muskinghum’s record to 8–2. Meanwhile, the match was Oberlin’s ninth straight loss of the season.

Although they failed to post the win, the Yeowomen were glad to return home to Oberlin and the home crowd.

“To be able to play in front our peers and professors on the homecourt…absolutely pump[s] us up,” junior Chinwe Okona said.

No doubt Okona and her teammates felt some of that home court chutzpah, as she and freshman Christine Antonsen accrued 21 kills. The attack channeled through first-year Jenna Bange and her team-leading 15 assists. Meanwhile, rookie Emma Kimmel’s 16 digs paced the Obie defense.

The team’s season-opening struggles are perhaps to be expected. Injuries have sidelined core middle hitters in junior Laura Jessee and sophomore Kristen Johnson, forcing the Yeowomen to play out of position and without any substitutes for much of the season’s early going.

But the Yeowomen’s resilience has impressed first-year head coach Erica Rau.

“Everyone, in general, has stepped up to be a leader because we only have nine people…everyone has had to step into that role,” Rau said. “I see very big things for this team in the future, we might just have to work at our own pace and be patient. We work so hard, we just want to be successful and play volleyball.”

And as Okona will quickly contend, once the Yeowomen get everything set, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

“The game of volleyball is one in which the momentum can quickly shift; and, I believe, this is also the case as…the season goes [on],” she said.

Oberlin has ten days off before getting their next crack at victory in Gambier, Ohio. The tournament, which Kenyon College will host from Sept. 24-25, also affords the Yeowomen their first chance to face conference rivals Denison University, Kenyon College, Ohio Wesleyan University and NCAC-newcomer DePauw.