Courtesy of OC Athletics
The volleyball team concluded its playoff run and 2014 season at the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament with an overall record of 13–19 last Saturday. The Yeowomen clinched one of seven spots in the tournament early last week and proceeded to take sixth place, falling to the Denison University Big Red in all three sets of the match.
Despite the subpar results, Head Coach Erica Rau said she was satisfied with her team’s performance during the game against the Big Red.
“We played Denison the best we could have,” she said.
The Yeowomen began the opening round of the tournament seeded seventh, falling to the DePauw University Tigers in three straight sets — 25–16, 25–13, 25–17 — on Friday night.
Oberlin’s offense hit just .140 for the match compared to DePauw’s .291, but stood its ground defensively with sophomore setter Meredith Leung and junior defensive specialist Molly Powers combining for 25 digs.
The Yeowomen went on to beat the Allegheny College Gators in the consolation bracket on Saturday morning. Oberlin fought back from a first-set deficit and proceeded to push past Allegheny in the following three sets.
Although the Yeowomen’s offensive momentum proved shoddy in their contest against DePauw, they saw a significant turnaround when playing the Gators. Junior middle hitter Maddy Dunn led the way with a game-high 17 kills, and sophomore Hannah Tyburski and first-year Dana Thomas added a combined 23 kills.
“It was nice going into the conference tournament and being able to beat Allegheny in four sets, because we had previously lost to them during the regular season,” said Rau. “It was a nice redemption for us, and it allowed us to improve on our win record from last year.”
Looking back on the season, the Yeowomen made noticeable improvements from past years. One such feat is the team’s overall record, which has improved each year since Rau’s arrival. Dunn said she attributed the Yeowomen’s growth to the young roster, which began settling in toward the end of the year.
“We ended a lot stronger than we started, and I think that’s a lot because we’re such a young team,” said Dunn. “It took a bit of time, but we had some really big wins at the end.”
Those big wins include a victory over the Case Western Reserve University Spartans, a team the Yeowomen had not previously defeated since 2008. Coach Rau also cited the game against the College of Wooster Fighting Scots as an important redemptive win, as the Yeowomen lost to the Fighting Scots during the regular season.
Dunn said that along with the team’s rapidly maturing roster, the late-season success was also a result of a newfound cohesion and team chemistry that was previously lacking.
“For those [later] games, everything was just syncing,” she said. “Sometimes we have a problem where defense will be really strong one game and offense will struggle, or offense will be really strong and defense will struggle.”
Tyburski echoed Dunn’s sentiment and said that the team’s record does not reflect its potential or individual skill levels.
“Preseason went great; we saw the talent in everyone,” she said. “But once the games started, it didn’t click.”
Still, Tyburski said this season was a sign of great things to come next year. The team has laid the groundwork for future success, she added, and it will come back for the 2015 season with more intense practices, on-court position huddles to maintain in-game communication, and more solidified lineups.
“When we lost, it’s not like we got creamed — we were right there,” said Tyburski. “It gives me a lot of hope for next year.”
Next season will also mark an important milestone for Rau when the first senior class that she has worked with for its entire collegiate career will graduate. With an experienced squad and Rau’s coaching tactics, the future looks as bright as ever for the Yeowomen.
“I’m excited to see our underclassmen playing with more experience under their belts,” Rau said.