In volleyball, as well as all other sports, changes in momentum can affect the outcome of a game, a match, a tournament.
The women’s volleyball team experienced just such changes at the Albany Invitational last weekend.
In their first match on Friday night, the Bulldogs (6-3, 0-0 Ivy) opened their tournament appearance against host Albany (7-8). The first set was very tight, as neither team pulled ahead by more than two points.
But the Bulldogs proved their strength and overpowered the Great Danes to take the first set 25-22. And it seemed as though the match would be an easy downhill run for the Bulldogs from there.
In the second set the Bulldogs matched their opening set kills with 15 and cut down on their errors from 10 to three. The Elis built an eight-point lead in the second set before captain setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 assisted Bridget Hearst ’12 on set point, sending the Bulldogs into the intermission with a two-set lead, and a fifth victory for the season all but in their grasp.
But the Great Danes could not be leashed, and they raced out of their locker room ready to please their home crowd.
“We weren’t playing really sharp even though we were winning,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “But Albany came out really sharp after the intermission.”
The momentum shifted to Albany as the team jumped out to an 8-2 lead. Outside hitter Cat Dailey ’10 ended Albany’s early run in the third set. It seemed as though the Bulldogs had squelched the Danes’ thoughts of a comeback.
But Albany continued its new burst of momentum and forced the Bulldogs into extra sets for the first time this season.
The Great Danes never looked back.
In the last three sets, the Bulldogs recorded more errors than kills, limiting their opportunities to go point-for-point with Albany. Both Alexis Crusey ’10 (18 kills, 15 digs) and Mendenhall (39 assists, 15 digs) recorded double-doubles in the match and were also named to the All-Tournament team. Libero Kelly Ozurovich ’11 contributed 23 digs to the defensive effort of the Elis.
The Bulldogs were disappointed with their loss to Albany but knew their fate could turn again just as quickly. And they proved they could rise from defeat with two decisive sweeps against Dayton (9-6) and Long Island (6-4) by a 3-0 score.
Now that the Bulldogs are done with their preseason, they will set their sights to conference play. And while the Elis might be ready to storm into the Ivy League, they understand the importance of the base they have built thus far.
“This preseason we learned something more about ourselves every time we touched the ball,” Crusey said. “But what’s most important is that we’re learning and growing together as a team.”
The Elis also learned that they have a lot of leadership, with many players ready to step up when called.
But the most recent lesson the Bulldogs learned about themselves comes from this weekend.
They now know they can rally from a bad match to come out swinging against their next opponent.
“We proved to ourselves that we can bounce back,” Dailey said. “Now we know that we have the fight in us.”