In its first game of the season last Friday, the women's volleyball team came out on top after losing its first set with a 3-1 victory at George Mason to kick off a three-match tournament. On Saturday, the team started strong, beating Coppin State with a sweep in three sets. However, things got a little rocky for the Tigers during the second match of the day. The freshman class, which made a big impression in the first two games, was unable to compete due to orientation activities, and a delayed start left the team a little frazzled, resulting in a 3-0 loss to Radford.
Freshman outside hitter Cara Mattaliano led the team with 17 kills and 16 digs in her first match as a Tiger, while classmate setter Lauren Miller led the team with 25 and 31 assists in the first and second games, respectively.
The integration of the freshmen into the team began with pre-preseason practice in Tampa, Fla., which gave the incoming players a chance to bond with the team.
"The second we started playing, just captains, without a coach,it was inevitable that all of them were going play at different parts of the game, and they really stepped up in the first couple of matches against other teams this weekend,” sophomore right sidehitter Kendall Peterkin said.
Peterkin and fellow sophomore defensive sophomore specialist Sarah Daschbach made strong contributions as well — Peterkin leads the team in kills and Daschbach leads in digs.
Junior leadership such as setter Ginny Willis and middle blockers Nicole Kincade and Tiana Woolridge also put up strong numbers.
To account for the graduation of All-Ivy outside hitter Lydia Rudnick '13, multiple freshman players have filled the position as well as first-team All-Ivy honoree Peterkin, who switched from her position on the right side for the tournament. The Tigers also switched up their style of play.
“Last year we ran primarily a 5-1 with one setter, but the past couple games we ran a combination 5-1 but mostly 6-2 with our setters, junior Ginny Willis and Lauren Miller, which makes it available for two right-side hitters,” Peterkin said. “As a whole it makes our team so much more diverse, and it freaks the other team out when it’s a different setter and different hitters on each side.”
With the strength of the underclassmen, the fact that the team lost only one senior starter from last season and a larger roster than that of previous seasons, the Tigers feel they have the kind of depth that will set them up for a very competitive season.
“With the depth that’s on our team, it’s been really competitive during practice because no one is taking over, everyone is working hard and everyone is making it that much harder to win a point,” Mattaliano said. “The other side of the net is going to do just as well, so you’re going to have to work hard every point to succeed in practice.”
Both Mattaliano and Peterkin attributed the successes of both new and returning players to a supportive team dynamic.
“The upperclassmen are so supportive, whether they play a lot [or not],” Peterkin said. “From a bench perspective, they’re really great about letting us know where we can hit, where we can tip, things that we don’t see necessarily. It’s awesome to see where players going back in are doing an awesome job substituting in.”
The Tigers will compete in another three-game weekend, starting Friday, at the Hofstra Invitational.