Colgate’s volleyball team has improved by leaps and bounds this season, and the Raiders’ last four Patriot League matches prove that this notion is correct. Colgate gave first-place American a scare in each of three games before being swept. The Raiders followed this gutsy performance with a dramatic two-game comeback to beat fourth-place Navy in five games. This was the second time in two years that Colgate has comeback from being down two games to beat the Midshipmen. Returning home during Fall Break, Colgate defeated third-place Army in four games and swept last place Holy Cross to claim second-place in the conference with a 6-1 record.
“We put ourselves in an early hole because we needed to improve our serve reception,” Head Coach Ryan Baker said.
The Raiders did pick up their game, pulling to within 27-26 before American made a final surge to win, 30-27. The second and third games saw Colgate push American throughout until the Eagles used a couple of big runs to win, 30-27 and 30-23.
Senior Erin Kanetzke had one of her best matches of the season, scoring nine kills to tie sophomore Kelsea Loveless for the team-high. She also had four total blocks, three of them solo. First-year Casey Ritt also starred, blocking five shots, including four solo stops. On offense, she contributed six kills. As a team, Colgate recorded nine blocks to American’s eight, which surprised Baker.
“They average 6’2″ and we’re 5’10,” he said. “We played a really tough match, but we made some unforced errors and didn’t get big kills late in games. Still, we took a big step forward,” he added.
The first game of the Navy match was tied at 29, but the Midshipmen recorded consecutive kills to secure an early advantage. Navy held off Colgate 30-27 in game two.
Colgate had now lost eight straight games, but Baker would not let them quit.
“During the break between games two and three, part of our talk was how we did it [came back] last year. Our serve reception and passing improved, so we were able to generate more points,” he said.
Colgate and Navy exchanged the lead eight times in the third game, and neither team led by more than four. But the Raiders won six of the last seven points for a 30-26 score and a foothold in the match. They had 20 kills and only six errors in the game. In the fourth game, Colgate jumped out to a 10-6 lead, but Navy eventually tied it at 20. Ultimately, the Raiders showed they meant business with a 10-3 run to level the match.
Both teams posted virtually identical stats throughout the first-to-15 tiebreaker. With Colgate and Navy all square at 13, junior Katrina Zawojski capped one of her best matches as a Raider with a kill. Loveless sealed the Colgate victory with one of her own. It was the sixth time Colgate recovered from a 2-0 deficit since official record-keeping began in 1977.
“It shows that we are mentally tough. That makes us better, and those teams win the fifth game,” Baker said.
Zawojski finished with 19 kills, 20 digs and four total blocks. Ritt’s career-high 20 kills helped her win Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors. Junior Merryl Pohl had 18 kills, while sophomore Meghan Fanta had 59 assists and 11 digs.
Colgate and Army were tied for second when they met on October 12th, and the Raiders quickly showed which team was better. They went up 21-10 after a 17-6 run and won the first game easily, 30-22. The Raiders’ opening statement apparently woke up Army, because the Black Knights put a string of points together twice to pull ahead in the second game. But the Raiders twice fought back to tie the score, and the Black Knights needed a kill and block on consecutive points to win, 31-29.
Colgate looked past the second game to dominate the next two games. They won 10 of the first 12 points in game three, and never trailed en route to a 30-24 victory. The fourth game resembled the second, except this time, Colgate took control with several good runs. Army made it close, but the Raiders hung on to win, 30-28 and beat the Black Knights for the first time since 2000. Zawojski had another double-double with 25 kills and 17 digs. Ritt and Loveless also reached double-digits in kills with 11 and 10, respectively. On defense, junior libero Jackie Adlam had 20 digs, while Kanetzke, Ritt and Pohl each had at least four block assists.
The Raiders needed to avoid a letdown against Holy Cross on Saturday. The Crusaders were winless in the Patriot League heading into the Colgate match and were hungry for their first win. However, Colgate emphatically denied Holy Cross any chance of victory by demolishing them with a three-game sweep. With the opening game tied at eight, the Raiders won 22 of the next 29 points to win, 30-15. Games two and three each followed a similar script. After the teams traded points early, Colgate dominated play and won by double-digits, 30-19 and 30-20. Ritt led the onslaught with 14 kills, helping her win Rookie of the Week honors for the second straight week. Pohl added 13 kills and Loveless contributed nine. Fanta helped set the attackers up with 43 assists. She also recorded five digs on defense in support of Adlam, whose 24 digs were a match-high.
Colgate’s 6-1 conference record puts them one game behind American for first place with half of the Patriot League schedule remaining. Colgate has shown remarkable prowess at home, but it now needs to prove its worth as road warriors. The Raiders will play three matches away from Cotterell Court in a five-day span. The stretch begins tomorrow night at Lehigh, followed by a match in Easton against Lafayette on Saturday. Colgate will finish the road trip in Central New York against rival Syracuse on Tuesday afternoon.