Exactly one week after Carthage College snapped their 17 game win streak and defeated them in the CCIW Tournament championship, the Elmhurst College volleyball team was given an opportunity to settle the scores and knock Carthage College out of the NCAA Championship on Nov. 12.
“Of course we wanted revenge; who wouldn’t?” said sophomore Megan Reynolds. “Everyone wants revenge with teams they have to face time and time again.”
But, Carthage, ranked ninth in the latest AVCA poll, bested the ‘Jays, ranked 16th in the latest AVCA poll, for the third time in four meetings this season, ending their run in the NCAA tournament and their season.
“We saw [Carthage] in Platteville and actually beat them, so we were hoping to even the score. But, we just didn’t play well,” said head coach Julie Hall. “We could have definitely done something better, but we just didn’t play well, so kudos to them.”
With Carthage leading 10-9 in the opening set, the ‘Jays dropped six of the next seven points to fall behind 16-10. Carthage then took advantage of 10 ‘Jays’ errors to win the first set 25-20.
The ‘Jays built a 10-6 lead in the second set before Carthage used a 10-6 run to tie the game a 16-16. Carthage would win five of the next six points and pulled away to win the set 25-19.
Again, the ‘Jays built a lead over Carthage in the third set. Leading 15-10, the ‘Jays extended their lead to 20-14, before Carthage responded with four straight points. The ‘Jays would regain control and push their lead to 23-21, but Carthage answered with back-to-back points to tie the score at 23-23. The score would tie at 24 and 25 before Carthage scored two straight points to earn the 27-25 win in the third set, ending the match.
“It was very disappointing to end the season on a loss like that,” Reynolds said.
The ‘Jays finished the match with 44 kills and 24 errors.
“It is extremely disappointing,” Hall said. “We were up 17-10 in the third game and just couldn’t close out. I think it just comes down to experience and our lack of. It will get better as we go on.”
Antoneya Veasy Smilth led the ‘Jays with 16 kills and nine digs. Freshman Sam Szarmach racked up seven kills and 15 digs, while Reynolds added six kills and seven blocks.
“Even though [the loss to Carthage] was disappointing, it was still a great year,” said Hall.
The ‘Jays ended the season with a 31-6 overall record and qualified for the NCAA Championship tournament for the first time since 2005.
“It was a huge [accomplishment],” said Hall. “It has been great, just being nationally ranked this year and making plays all season long.”
“It is a huge accomplishment for our team; I was happy to be part of it,” said Szarmach.
The ‘Jays success this season did not go unnoticed, as Reynolds and junior Perrie Morgan earned first-team all-region accolades, five players (Reynolds, Morgan, Szarmach, junior Erin Thill and Smith) earned all-conference recognition, and Hall was named the AVCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year.
Reynolds, who was named the Region’s Freshman of the Year in 2010, led the ‘Jays in kills (396), kills per set (3.17), hitting percentage (.380), blocks (151) and blocks per set (1.21). Reynolds also led the CCIW in blocks per set (1.46 in league games).
“It was nice being honored by the conference,” Reynolds said. “My hard work was not the only aspect of my recognition; I couldn’t do it without my team.”
Morgan finished as the ‘Jays’ leader in digs (641) and digs per set (5.34).
Szarmach received second team all-conference honors, while Thill and Smith were both selected to the honorable mention.
Szarmach led the CCIW in service aces, totaling 15, an average of 0.62 aces per set in CCIW play. Thill ranked fifth in the CCIW in assists, averaging 8.96 per set in conference games. She led the ‘Jays in assists (959) and assists per set (7.86). Smith racked up 284 kills and finished fourth on the ‘Jays with 50 blocks.
This season, under Hall’s direction, the ‘Jays began the season unranked, won 30 games, went unbeaten from Oct. 4 until Nov. 4 and finished as the 16th ranked team in the AVCA poll. Hall recorded her 450th career win. Her career record is now 463-224.
With their confidence level sky high, Hall is cannot wait for the start of next season with the young team.
“We are really excited,” she said. “The team chemistry is absolutely incredible, and I have an awesome coaching staff, so we are very much looking forward to next season.”