The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Colgate Volleyball Celebrates Three-Peat

Colgate+Volleyball+Celebrates+Three-Peat
Olivia Hokanson

Cotterell Court will see yet another banner raised in its rafters. Colgate University Volleyball just secured their third consecutive Patriot League championship — their fourth regular season championship in five years. 

The Raiders ended their season 13-3 in Patriot League play and 22-8 overall, matching their phenomenal record from 2021 and coming up just short of their incredible 14-2 record in 2022 and 15-1 record in 2019, when they split the regular season championship with American University.

Junior libero/outside hitter Caroline Altergott spoke of the team’s place within the Patriot League.

We fall back on the leadership of our seniors and the standard that has been set throughout the past few years of success. We have the mindset that our best is incomparable to the rest of the league and that we should not lose. We hold high standards for our program and work to defend our home court, Altergott said.

Junior setter Sydney Jones spoke on the championship culture within the team and the pressure that has built up.

“As a team, we did feel pressure to win another championship. After winning two years in a row, it has become the standard for our program,” Jones said. “When we walked into the gym on Aug. 7, everyone already knew what our goals were for the season, even our new first-years. Ryan Baker, our head coach, has said it the past two years, that American [used] to be the dynasty in the Patriot League – they had won a significant number of Championships in a row – and now he says that it is our turn to be a dynasty […]. Also, my class knows nothing else; being a junior, I have been here for all of our now three championships, and we say it every year, but my class wants to got four-for-four while we are here at Colgate.”

Winning the Patriot League championship granted the Raiders an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Raiders put up their best showing in the Tournament of recent history. Last year, the most points they put up in a set against Pittsburgh was 16. And in 2021, in the NCAA tournament against Wisconsin, the most points Colgate put up was 15. The Raiders have been able to hang with the big dogs increasingly over the last few years. 

Senior libero and Patriot League Tournament MVP Taylor Cigna spoke of the qualities that have allowed the Raiders to reach this level of success. 

“I’m so impressed by the depth that we have on our team […]. I think you can have a really successful team through talent alone, but we’ve been able to build this really unique level of selflessness and trust in each other. You win and lose as a team, whether you’re in the game or not, and you’re happy that the person out there before you is playing well and helping the team win,” Cigna said.

Colgate put up a strong fight against number-17 Creighton University in the NCAA tournament this past weekend on Dec. 1. While Colgate lost 3-0 to the Bluejays, they scored 19, 23 and 21 points in each of the three sets. This was a strong performance for the Raiders, yet they have picked up some experience against big-name teams earlier this season.

Sydney Jones spoke about the opportunity to play in the Tournament.

When we get to play these teams, we don’t see it as just a cool opportunity to play good teams and hopefully be able to hang in there with them. We see those opportunities as a time where we can make Colgate known to people who have never heard of our small liberal arts school and leave our mark whoever we go,” Jones said. We believe we can beat those teams, and when we do, it’s amazing — when we don’t, we think about how far we have come and how until three years ago, we hadn’t made it to the NCAA tournament since 2012.”

Most notably, the Raiders had a big win against West Virginia University in their home opener, a strong Big-12 competitor. This was a strong showing for the Raiders early in the season. The Raiders were able to fight through five frames to claim the 3-2 victory.

The Raiders were also tested this season by nationally ranked competitors such as number-14 Penn State University and number-22 Western Kentucky University. Both matchups came in the Penn State Invitational tournament. Colgate fell to Western Kentucky 3-1 back on Sep. 1 yet was able to put up over 20 points in each set, push the Big Red and gain valuable competitive experience at a high level early in the season.

Cigna spoke on the team’s success against big-name teams.

“It’s a combination of things we do both in and out of the gym. We do a lot in practice to try to mirror high-pressure moments so we’re as prepared as we can be when the time comes, regardless of the opponent,” Cigna said. “We really focus on sharpening our own game and staying really disciplined to what we know so we can fall back on the things we work on, instead of having to try to match another team’s style of play in order to win.”

While on the surface it may appear that Colgate Volleyball has been consistently good over the past three years, which is true, their performances against big-time competitors have improved more than anything else. In 2022, they faced the number-24 University of Southern California and fell in a 3-0 loss, putting up only 13, 20 and 12 points in each set. 

This improvement shows Colgate’s increasing their prominence on the national stage while maintaining their dominance in the Patriot League. 

Jones explained that the Raiders dominance has made its way into their mentality as well.

“I think we are able to play well against such high-level competition because we train against each other every day, which makes us so much better on a daily basis. Our team has so much depth that each day, we are playing the best [competition] in the Patriot League. It really prepares us for the league — it honestly makes the league seem easy, and then when we get to harder out of conference competition, we can actually compete, Jones said.

The Raiders also earned individual accolades for their performance in the postseason. Senior Taylor Cigna, junior Greta Hoogstra and first-year Frances Torres were all named to the 2023 Patriot League Volleyball All-Tournament Team. Cigna was also named the Tournament MVP. The Raiders have also gained notoriety nationally, as fifth-year Sophie Thompson finished the season ranked fifth in the NCAA in blocks per set.

Colgate is led by coach Ryan Baker, who is in his 18th season as head coach. At the culmination of the season, he was awarded his fifth Patriot League Coach of the Year award. Earlier this season Baker hit a large career milestone, earning his 300th career win in a sweep against the Lafayette College Leopards.

While Volleyball has had an impressive performance on the court, it does not end there for them. The team has also excelled in the classroom. Junior Abby Shadwick was named the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year. A Raider has not been awarded this title since 1999, and this is Shadwick’s second time being recognized for her academic accomplishments by the Patriot League. The academic accomplishments do not end there for the Raiders, as Sophie Thompson was also named to the 2023 Volleyball Academic All-League Team.

This strong academic performance from the Raiders is reinforced by their coaching staff. Earlier this semester, Head Coach Baker had the opportunity to speak to Professor Douglas Johnson’s first-year seminar, The Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Along with Women’s Basketball Head Coach Ganiyat Adeduntan, the two spoke to the class and fielded questions on their leadership within sports.

Professor Johnson spoke highly of Coach Baker.

“It was clear to me that Ryan [Baker] has adjusted his leadership as his team needs have evolved over time — an impressive demonstration of Ryan’s leadership abilities,” Johnson said.

Cigna spoke on the energy Coach Baker brings to the team-winning mentality.

Something [Coach Baker] always says is ‘championships are won in the offseason.’ At the end of the day, we all take the spring as a chance to build a solid foundation for the next season,” Cigna said.

While the Raiders have earned a much-deserved break, they are already thinking about how to improve.

Our teams priority in the offseason is going to be to continue to build our system and find things that can take us to the next level. Defense and blocking is key at the higher level, so we are going to probably focus on that a lot, and there are a few things we want to incorporate in our offense — fast tempo and different sets, things like that, Jones said.

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About the Contributor
Caroline Michaud, Sports Editor
Caroline Michaud is a senior from Lexington, MA concentrating in political science and religion. She has previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. On campus, Caroline is involved in a Greek letter organization.

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