Volleyball sweeps, defeats first ranked opponent

Record holder Genny Pezzola leads the garnet to victory. (Justin Toran-Burrell/The Phoenix)

At the risk of inadvertently summarizing much of this season, it is hard to imagine things going better for the Swarthmore volleyball team than how they went this Saturday.

Celebrating Homecoming Weekend and Senior Day on their home court in the Swarthmore Quad Match, the Garnet swept all three matches it played, losing just one set along the way to close out this season’s slate of home games in style. A 3-1 victory over Susquehanna College and 3-0 shutouts of Richard Stockton College and Scranton University moved the team’s overall record to 21-6 and its home record to 10-2. The Garnet has now won seven straight on the season, its last loss a five-set match against Gettysburg on October 8.

“It was awesome,” Brone Lobichusky ’14 said of the dominant performance. “It was great to have a big crowd and great to show everybody that we’re a good team, and we can go all the way.”

The Garnet’s three victories include a win over Richard Stockton, the fifth-ranked team in the New York Conference. (Justin Toran-Burrell/The Phoenix)

The convincing defeat of Richard Stockton, from the standpoint of the program, was the undisputed highlight of the weekend. The Ospreys came into Saturday’s match ranked fifth in the New York region, marking the first time Swarthmore volleyball has defeated a ranked opponent. Richard Stockton managed a total of fifty-five points in the three-set loss.

Head coach Harleigh Chwastyk highlighted a renewed emphasis on being able to hold leads and close out matches.

“Something we have worked on in practice is finishing our matches and playing our best with every point we step on the court for,” Chwastyk said.

The Susquehanna Crusaders (15-15) was the only team to take a set off of Swarthmore on Saturday. Extended scoring runs in each of the first two sets, including a 10-point run in the first, gave the Garnet a quick two-set lead. Susquehanna built up a large lead at one point in the third set — the only set of the match in which they posted more kills than Swarthmore — and pulled it out despite the Garnet tying it up late in the set. Swarthmore nearly lost a big lead of its own in set number four, but held on behind sophomore Maggie Duszyk’s seven kills to clinch the match with a 25-22 set victory.

Seniors Hillary Santana and Lisa Shang combined for 40 digs (Santana put up 22, Shang 18) while Genny Pezzola ’12 had 21 digs of her own to go along with 12 kills for her tenth double-double match of the season. Team captain Allison Coleman ’13 added 48 assists; she would go on to record 111 for all three matches.

For the rest of the day, the Crusaders would go on to sweep Scranton but get swept by Richard Stockton (22-8).

The Richard Stockton match, which came next for Swarthmore, was arguably one of the team’s finest efforts this season. Committing only 11 errors over the course of three sets while their opponent had 26, the Garnet won every set by at least five points, winning all three 25-19, 25-16, 25-20 to record the sweep. Once again, the Garnet was able to go on long scoring runs that paced its set victories, including a 6-0 run to pull away in the first set and a 10-2 run in the second that erased an Osprey lead.

For the Garnet, this was validation that the team can compete with anyone.

“At this point, we’ve played top teams in the conference and didn’t get the results we wanted against Hopkins, Gettysburg and F&M,” Shang said. “[This win] shows to our conference how much we’ve improved as a team and that we are a strong contender for the conference championship.”

The standout of the landmark victory was Lobichusky, whose .818 hitting percentage — a team-leading 18 kills in just 22 attempts — was a career high. Lobichusky closed out the match in style with the winning kill in the third set that gave Swarthmore its first-ever victory over a ranked opponent. Santana added a match-high 16 digs.

“The win was truly a team effort with everyone pushing themselves at practice and during the game,” Katie Amodei ’15 said in an email, “so it made the victory that much more enjoyable.”

Richard Stockton defeated Scranton in four sets and Susquehanna in three in their other two matches.
Completing the sweep of the day against the Scranton University Royals (14-14) proved harder than the first set — a 25-12 Garnet victory — indicated it would be. The second set went into extra points before Swarthmore came away with the 26-24 win, and only a late run by Swarthmore in the third set allowed the team to pull away, 25-21, without dropping a set. Once more, Pezzola was a leader on offense with 14 kills and seven digs, while Coleman added 21 more assists.

On Senior Day, if it truly was their last time playing in Tarble Pavillion, Santana, Pezzola and Shang went out in style.

The three combined for 33 kills, 4 aces and 129 digs. However, should the Garnet, currently in fourth place in the conference, maintain that position, it would be able to host the “play-in” game between the fourth and fifth-place conference teams. At the moment, the team in fifth place is Haverford (11-12, 5-3).

On Tuesday, Swarthmore traveled to Bryn Mawr, where they defeated the Owls 3-0. Coleman once again led the way with 34 assists, while Danielle Sullivan ’14 and Danielle Delpeche ’15 paced the team with seven kills each.

With the playoffs on the line, and the Garnet playing some of its best volleyball of the season, the highest priority is to keep up a high level of focus into the postseason, as well as learn to develop a short memory for past mistakes.

“When we step on the court to train or play, you’re doing it with a purpose, and not just going through the motions,” Chwastyk said. “We have team goals, but every individual has their own goals, different things they’re looking to improve on.

“Another important thing is playing with confidence. As an athlete you tend to fail more than you succeed, so the question is: where do you get your confidence and how do you show that?”
One particular strategy to maintain focus has been to break the game down into smaller pieces and to take it one piece at a time.

“In games, we want to focus on being the first team to five points, ten points, fifteen points, et cetera,” Shang said. “It is all about increasing the intensity, trying to push each other in practice, playing the game with intensity, not letting any balls drop and holding each other accountable for all of that. The great thing about our team is that we don’t take constructive criticism like that personally.”

The Garnet will play on the road against Haverford and Elizabethtown at Haverford on Saturday, October 29 for the final games of the regular season. The match against Haverford is slated to begin at 2:30 p.m.

The match against Elizabethtown is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

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