Garnet Volleyball Sets Sights High

As the Swarthmore College volleyball team opened its season last week at the Haverford Invitational, it faced many question marks. Having graduated a strong senior class led by Genny Pezzola, a player described by Head Coach Harleigh Chawstyk as “the best volleyball player in school history,” the Garnet entered the season looking to prove that this year’s team could enjoy the same success at the 2011 team, which finished 24-8.

The loss of Pezzola, along with libero Hillary Santana, combined with the team’s disappointing first round exit from the Centennial Conference tournament last season led to the team being ranked just fourth in the preseason coaches’ poll. However, the Garnet have refused to listen to their doubters. Senior tri-captain Kat Montemurro ’13 stated that the team’s goal is to “contend for and win a conference championship,” a sentiment echoed by Chawstyk.

In order to reach these high expectations, Swarthmore will rely on strong upperclassman leadership. Along with Montemurro, fellow senior tri-captain Allie Coleman ’13 will look to improve on an impressive 2011 season that ended with her being named second team all-conference. Montemurro also lauded the “entire junior class, Maggie [Duscyk], Brone [Lobichusky] and Danielle [Sullivan]” for “really stepping up as upperclassmen so far.” The team expects significant contributions from this trio of big hitters throughout the season.

Bolstering the team’s upperclassman core will be first-years Madison Heppe and Sam Dubois. Both have made immediate impacts in the team’s opening games and have earned high praise from the coaching staff. Assistant Coach Kelly Jansen commented that she was “very surprised, pleasantly, at the level of talent from the freshmen” and Chawstyk lauded their fundamentals, experience and their desire to win, describing the first-year class as “fitting in right from the get go, which is really great for our program.”

Two new assistant coaches, Jansen and Helen Fitzpatrick, have proven to be valuable new voices on the court and at practice. Montemurro praised both for their “great feedback” and “wonderful knowledge of the game.” Montemurro specifically appreciated both coaches ability to “pick up on the tiny nuances of the game that… as a player you miss out on.” In close matches, these small pointers are crucial. They can lead to winning a point that could potentially change the momentum of the match, and in the long run, they can be the difference between being merely a good team and being the conference champion that the team aspires to be.

The Haverford Invitational, in which Swarthmore compiled a 3-1 record, provided a series of strong early tests for the young Garnet squad. The team’s lone defeat came at the hands of 10th ranked Juniata. Despite losing the match 3-0, the team took several positives away. Montemurro said that “it’s great to be competing at such a high level already,” adding that all three sets were “very competitive.” Chawstyk noted that the Garnet “stepped up to the challenge, as Allie Coleman had a service ace for the first point of the match.” Though Swarthmore managed to take some positives out of a tough loss, it was clear that they felt that they could perform better. Chawstyk pointed out that “we just couldn’t finish,” adding that the team spent the week practicing finishing out sets and working on defense, particularly on “making the first contact a good ball.”

At Friday night’s home opener against 9th ranked Eastern University, Swarthmore’s practice paid off, as the team excelled on defense and defeated a strong Eastern squad in straight sets, 3-0. Time and time again, Eastern ripped serves over the net, and time and time again, the Garnet found a way to send them back. Led by Heppe and sophomore Kate Amodei, the Garnet back line tallied 63 digs, while the front line added 18 blocks. Eastern succumbed to the defensive tenacity of the Garnet, who this time made sure to work on finishing the sets. Though Eastern made strong runs at the end of both the first and third sets, the Swarthmore women stayed focused and finished out each set.

The Garnet hope to take the momentum gained from their strong start into a conference schedule loaded with tough competition. Standing between Swarthmore and a conference championship figure to be Johns Hopkins and Franklin and Marshall. Both teams defeated Swarthmore last season, and Montemurro says that, “we are all looking for a chance at redemption.” Montemurro knows that in order to compete with these league powers, the team will need to continue to keep up “this energy we have been playing with so far, both mentally and physically.”

The 2012 Swarthmore woman’s volleyball team is determined to take home a Centennial Conference championship. If they can continue competing at the level they did on Friday night, there is no reason to doubt that they will.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Phoenix

Discover more from The Phoenix

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading