This past weekend, with the bleachers more packed than ever before, the women’s volleyball team set out to win both rounds of the Liberty League playoffs. The team fought aggressively for their win in five sets against the Rochester Institute of Technology, but fell short to Clarkson University, losing in the fourth set.
Against RIT, the Brewers won with set scores of 25-17, 19-25, 25-21, 25-27 and 15-11. Freshman hitter Jane McLeod led the team with 22 kills, her career best, while sophomore Devan Gallagher followed with 18. Vassar’s players took the first and third sets, but were given a run for their money by RIT in the second and fourth sets. The fifth set was led by Vassar’s defensive efforts, earning several points off blocks from senior hitter Gabby Miller and junior hitter Bria Corham. The team’s hitters thrived off of assists from sophomore setter Annie MacMillan, who ranks first in the Liberty League for assists and second for service aces.
Miller, set up by MacMillan, won the final point on of the game, securing the team’s opportunity to advance to the championship game. Fellow Brewers who packed into Kenyon Hall supported the team in large. Gallagher told, “It was great to see the stands so crowded on Friday. It showed a lot of unity between the sports at Vassar.”
The following day, the players entered their match against Clarkson with enthusiasm and poise. Though Vassar beat the Golden Knights for both regular season matches, the Brewers fell in the championships as Clarkson pulled out the win with set scores of 25-19, 23-25, 25-21 and 25-22.
Regardless of its ultimate loss, this season’s team has been a standout crew, ending the regular season as the No. 1 seed and taking hold of the league in kills, assists, hitting percentage and service aces. The Brewers headed into their Liberty League Championship weekend undefeated on their home court in the regular season, with an 11-0 record.
After defeating a couple of highly ranked teams, the team made its way up to a ranking of sixth in the New York region. They beat SUNY New Paltz, ranked 10th, as well as Ramapo College, ranked even higher than Vassar at third. Head Coach Jonathan Penn, who has collected the most wins in program history, secured his 500th win in this victory over Ramapo. Vassar’s victory broke the 19-match winning streak that Ramapo was working to maintain as the third-ranked team in the New York region, showing the Brewers’ potential for success moving forward.
The team dynamic was one of the most crucial factors in aiding the team’s victories. Without the trust and support existing between its members, the team would not have been able to continue as far into the season as it did. “This team is one of the most confident I’ve played on in a very long time,” Miller commented on team attitudes. “The reasons behind our few losses are not that we ever doubted ourselves, but rather we got out-played. This group’s confidence and belief in each other and in ourselves was the reason we got as far as we did, to the Liberty League Championship game this weekend.”
As the season comes to a close, the squad will say its goodbyes to three influential seniors, Gabby Miller, Sierra Tobin and Sarah Roberts. All three have been instrumental to the team’s success throughout the past four years. On and off the court, they have provided the support and encouragement for the rest of the players to succeed at great levels.
“All of them have helped lead our team through the past years,” Gallagher explained. “They all have extremely different leadership styles, and I think that was a really helpful aspect for taking care of our team. While Gabby’s confidence influences the rest of us to be confident in our play, Sierra helps us to keep our cool by never wavering from her calm, consistent surface. Sarah is able to keep the energy throughout our entire team and keep us psyched even in tough games.”
In terms of next season, the six freshmen and four sophomores look to learn and grow with the support of one another, furthering their accomplishments each year. “I think the freshmen far exceeded expectations any of us had for them and even what they probably had for themselves,” Miller said, praising the newcomers. “It’s no question that Jane McLeod and Jorden Schreeder played a consistently crucial role on the court this season. All you have to do is look at statistics to see that.” McLeod ranks second both on the team and in the conference for kills and sixth for hitting percentage. Meanwhile, Schreeder ranks ninth in the conference for service aces, racking up a total of 41.
While the team is pleased with its great success, the players are also disappointed with their season close against Clarkson. “It would be a huge lie to say that we aren’t all disappointed about the final outcome of our season,” Miller shared. “But to have originally tied for fourth in the Liberty League pre-season poll with Saint Lawrence, and then win the entire league put things into perspective.”
Though Miller will be leaving the team after this season, she and the other seniors have high hopes for the seasons that the Brewers have to come. “We’ve left a good foundation so that next year this team can continue to grow,” she said, determined. “I have no doubt that they will make it to the championship again next year. Many of them are already thinking about next season. That’s how competitive these girls are, and I’ll be on sidelines supporting them every step of the way.”