Almost one year to the day since Bethany College ended Swarthmore’s 2010 season, the Garnet volleyball team once again fell to the host Bison in a three-set sweep on Saturday to bring their season to a conclusion.
After defeating the Delaware Valley Aggies this past Wednesday, Swarthmore advanced to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) semifinals against Bethany, just as it had a year ago.
In their 2010 match, the Bison overcame a two-sets-to-none Swarthmore lead to win two tightly contested sets followed by a 15-7 tiebreaker to complete the comeback.
This time around, Bethany (30-6) needed no such theatrics; though the Garnet fought competitively in the early parts of the first two sets, the tightest margin of victory for their opponent was seven points.
When it was all over, the Bison had polished off the Garnet in methodical, almost robotically effective fashion 25-16, 25-11, 25-18.
“It was very quiet,” Brone Lobichusky ’14 said of the scene in the locker room following the loss. “No one knew what to say. We were in shock that the season was actually over.”
Lisa Shang ’12 credited Bethany’s mental strength as a significant factor in the win.
“They were definitely more composed,” Shang said of the winning team. “Even though we traded points early on, even then it seemed like they were playing with more composure, and we were scrambling a little.”
Despite the convincing loss, Swarthmore still featured several notable performances.
Lobichusky, a breakout player this season, led the Garnet attack with seven kills over the three sets. Maggie Duszyk ’14 followed Lobichusky with six kills of her own. Allie Coleman ’13, who once this year tallied 111 assists in a single day of play, one again led her squad with sixteen.
In their final game after a four-year run that saw the volleyball program reach a new level, Genny Pezzola ’12, Shang, and Hillary Santana ’12 all found ways to remind the team of what it was losing. Shang, ninth on the Garnet all-time digs list, added two digs. Santana, tenth on that list, led the defense with 22. Pezzola, always potent on both offense and defense, tallied two kills and seven digs.
Following the end to their season, the seniors helped to keep things in perspective for the team.
“The feeling for me and the other seniors was that it wasn’t supposed to end like this,” Shang said. “But the [senior] class has had four great seasons here, and right now it’s tough to not focus on the last game, but I think ultimately it’s one game out of a hundred.”
While the Garnet gave Bethany its due after the match, the overall reaction was one of regret for the unfulfilled promise.
“We had the potential and skill this season to be the top team in our conference,” Duszyk said in an email. “We need to be proud of what we achieved and use the frustration of not winning the Centennial Conference or ECACs to motivate and propel us into next season.”
For the victorious Bison, Taylor Cassidy led both teams with 13 kills. Jessica Zavatchen and Tiffany Hoffman did the same with 33 assists and 18 digs respectively.
The Bison would go on to win the ECAC South Region championship with a 3-1 defeat of St. Vincent.
The Garnet finish the season at 24-8, a record that ties the 1985 team for the program’s single-season best. While Swarthmore rarely had a misstep during the regular season and often looked close to unbeatable, the team ends the year no further than it did in 2010.
“It’s really great when we look at our overall record,” Shang said. “We had a great season, but the way it ended, with the loss to Haverford, the loss to Bethany, that’s what’s really defined the season. It’s hard to look past those losses, [but] hopefully next year’s team can go further and make it to next year’s finals.”