At first glance, the volleyball team suffered a considerable disappointment at last weekend’s Penn State Volleyball Tournament. The Raiders lost all three matches against Virginia Commonwealth, Penn State and St. John’s, each in three games. Yet, head coach Ryan Baker is even more optimistic about the team’s future after the event.
“Colgate volleyball over the last five years has not had the program to play the six teams we did over the past two weekends,” Baker noted. “Virtually all of them are NCAA Tournament-caliber teams and the best Patriot League teams like American would not have done better. Although we still need another year or two of recruiting to really contend for wins against the very best teams, I have seen a great deal of improvement over the past two weeks.”
Like the previous weekend, Colgate’s best chance for a win came in the first match against Virginia Commonwealth. The game saw multiple ties and lead changes until the Rams won 13 of the final 19 points to win 30-26. A similar game followed, with VCU turning an 18-17 Colgate lead into a 30-25 victory through a 10-2 run. Game three saw Colgate play a stretch of points that Baker later described as “what the team hoped it could get to.” With the game tied at five, the Raiders won 15 of 23 points to take control of the game. However, the Rams did not concede the game, fighting back to tie at 28. Colgate lost the next point, but then won two in a row to gain a chance to win. VCU was in no mood to play another game, though, and won three straight points to claim a 33-31 game and the match.
Junior Katrina Zawojski led all scorers with 14 kills, while classmate Merryl Pohl had nine. Sophomore Meghan Fanta played a strong two-way match with 34 assists and 10 digs, while junior libero Jackie Adlam had 16 digs.
Despite a solid effort from the Raiders, third-ranked Penn State had little trouble winning 30-10, 30-13, and 30-14. In doing so, the Nittany Lion players combined for 54 kills. Colgate led only twice, both times coming early in the second game. First-year Casey Ritt led the Raiders with five kills, while Zawojski and senior Erin Kanetzke had four apiece. Adlam had a match-best 13 digs. Despite the loss, Baker was very proud of his team’s display.
“The average height disparity was about five inches, and Penn State has national title aspirations this year,” Baker said. “Still, it was good that we competed and played hard throughout and got double digits in points for each game, which shows our growth during my three years here. Their head coach was very impressed with Colgate, and everyone who saw this match knows that we are better than the score indicates.”
In the final match of the road trip, Colgate took on the Red Storm. St. John’s largely cruised in the first game, winning 30-24. The Raiders erased a 14-8 lead in game two with a 9-3 run to draw even at 17 apiece. The Red Storm immediately answered with six consecutive points to pull away for good, winning 30-23, and then quickly finished off Colgate 30-15 in the third game.
Ritt had five kills and made the all-tournament team. Zawojski’s 11 kills led the team, while Pohl had eight and first-year Sam Trauth had six. Fanta had 30 assists.
The Raiders, 2-7 overall, return home this weekend for three games in the Colgate Invitational. They face Fairleigh Dickinson tomorrow night, followed by Saturday afternoon games against Wagner and Central Arkansas.
“This weekend, we expect to win the tournament,” Baker said. “We play teams comparable to those in the Patriot League, and the tough non-conference schedule we’re facing should be great preparation for league play.”