On Sept. 2, Coach Jonathan Penn took his women’s volleyball team cross-country to Tacoma, WA to open their season in the Puget Sound Premiere.
Although the Brewers would return to Poughkeepsie without a win, Penn believes it was a strong start to the team’s season.
“Tacoma was a great trip for us in the sense we got to open our season with some very good teams,” Penn expressed. “Two of them ranked in the top 20, and that’s the kind of competition we want to start with.”
On the first day of the tournament, the Brewers opened their season with two losses in six straight sets to University of Puget Sound and then Pacific Lutheran University. The team rebounded on the second day, taking one set on No. 16 Southwestern University.
In their third match, the Brewers were able to push No. 8 Carthage College to five sets. Down two sets early, Vassar rallied with back-to-back wins, 25-22 and 25-18. However, in the tiebreaker, Carthage held the advantage through the set and came away with the 15-10 victory.
Coming up big for the Brewers in that matchup was freshmen Jane McLeod. She recorded 22 kills in the loss, and currently holds the team lead in kills on the season with 106.
“I’ve been very aggressive and have been using the block a lot and listening to my teammates,” McLeod explained. “My overall experience thus far with the team has been amazing. ”
Sophomore Annie MacMillan also excelled during the tournament, dishing out 141 assists over the four games. Fellow sophomore Devan Gallagher contributed significantly as well, and is currently second on the team in kills with 88 on the season. Gallagher is also the reigning Liberty League Rookie of the Year.
“I think we are off to a great start,” Gallagher said. “We have definitely had ups and downs but I think we know the level we are capable of playing and are constantly trying to reach that level and exceed it.”
Penn said the team will rely heavily on some younger players like McLeod, Gallagher and MacMillan throughout the season.
The Brewers also have strong leadership in seniors Sarah Roberts, and co-captains Sierra Tobin and Gabby Miller. Tobin is currently tied for first in service points (32) and leads in digs (109), while Miller is tied for second in service points (30) and third in kills (77). Both Miller and Tobin have stepped into the crucial libero spot, vacated by 2015 graduate Chloe Hallum.
According to Penn, who is now in his 20th season at Vassar, this year’s team has what it takes to compete. “In terms of total depth and total talent, this might be as strong as a team as it has ever been.”
Since the Tacoma trip, the team has shown it can compete with more local talent. Since losing to Williams College 2-3 on Sept. 7, the women have won four straight matches on 12 straight sets in the Vassar Invitational.
On Friday, the Brewers defeated Purchase College and University of New England, both 3-0. On Saturday, the team swept the University of Pittsburg at Bradford and Alfred University to move to 4-5 on the season.
“I think our biggest goal for the season is to just train hard everyday and at the end of season have no regrets about how hard we fought and worked to get there,” Gallagher articulated, “We want to be able to say that we left everything on the court after every game.”
For the team’s success early in the season, McLeod notched Liberty League Rookie of the Week while MacMilan was named to the Liberty League Honor Roll.
Vassar will take on Skidmore College at home on Saturday Sept. 17 in Liberty League play.