Assoc. Sports Editor
Griffins may be a majestic, ferocious and intimidating creature; but, on Friday, they were nothing but fodder for the Marauders to feed on.
Chestnut Hill College stomped into Pucillo Gymnasium on Friday only to be swept 3-0 by Millersville’s women’s volleyball team. After being beaten by Lock Haven in the first round of the 2012 PSAC Championship, the Marauders got the strong start of the 2013 season they were hoping for with a 25-15, 26-24, 25-8 victory.
It wasn’t so easy-peasy, however. The Griffins gave the Marauders a run for their money in the first two sets.
10-10 was the score nearly halfway through the opening set, but Millersville fended their half-eagle, half-lion opponents off with a 15-5 run. A .300 hitting percentage definitely aided in their cause to avoid a rerun of last year’s season-ending loss.
The second set 23-17 seemed to be on cruise control for Millersville, as they were a mere 2 points from closing out the set. Chestnut Hill, however, had quite the twist in mind in their version of the story. They exacted their revenge of the first set with a 7-1 rally of their own. Despite the Griffins’ efforts, though, Millersville slammed the next two points home for a second-set victory.
Rebecca Roman’s kill to make it 25-24 was one of the senior’s game-leading 10 on the court. Then, to lay the set to rest, sophomore Taylor Smith ended it with style on a service ace.
Snipping the Griffins’ momentum before they could steal the second set from the Marauders proved to be a momentum-booster for the club in the third and final set. From a weak .081 hitting percentage in the middle set, they got their heads back in the game by improving that number by .252 in the remaining portion of the season opener.
Leading by as many as 15 points, the Marauders surged ahead early 12-3; then, with the help of senior leader Jessica Franz and her 12 assists in the match, they pulled the score even further apart at 18-5. The deficit for the Griffins was too much to handle as they fell to the Marauders for the third consecutive set.
Leading the offensive pack statistics-wise was Roman, with her 10 kills. Next up was one of 2012’s All-PSAC East Second Team members, Katie Lesinski, with 9 kills. Sophomore middle hitter Kayla Wallace packed on 7 more kills for the Marauders.
Two Lady Marauders found themselves above 10 assists as well. One was Franz; the other was newcomer and freshman Erika Smith with 14 assists. Erika is fond of giving the helping hand, for she set her high school volleyball team all the way up to the state quarterfinals.
The third Smith on the team, Brooklyn Smith, was the top digger with nine. Franz lingered behind with 6 digs. Both of the players were just two out of the five to have at least four defensive digs in the game.
While some of the Marauders were squatting, some were launching in the air to block any spikes that the Griffins had in store. Redshirt Mary Paul said hello to Millersville and goodbye to Chestnut Hill’s kill attempts with four blocks. Roman also used her 6-1 height to block three more for the Black and Gold.
Look out for coverage of a double-header from Saturday, also being played at Pucillo Gymnasium by the women’s volleyball club.
9 sets, 205 minutes of volleyball and 1,611 calories burned* later, the Lady Marauders finished Saturday’s grueling doubleheader with a 1-1 record.
The Marauder Clash in Pucillo Gymnasium came to a close with Millersville (2-1) splitting its final two season-opening home games to Holy Family (0-3) and Franklin Pierce (3-0). The first game kept the fans on their toes, with Millersville trading sets until a 3-2 victory. The second came was too tough for the Marauders, though, as their gas ran out in the 1-3 loss.
Despite losing five out of their nine sets on the day, Millersville’s coach, Brian Smith, was more than satisfied with the end results.
“I was pleased we were able to win two of the three matches [in] week one,” Smith said. “I was also happy that we had a solid contribution from all of our players.”
During game one, the first set was neck-and-neck. With the scoreboard displaying 16-19 in favor of the away team, Millersville took a nosedive, losing 6 of the final 7 points to fall 17-25.
After having a commanding 17-10 lead and hitting .320 on the court, Holy Family surged back to stare Millersville’s 24-23 lead in the face. Thanks to a kill by sophomore 6-footer Kayla Wallace, the Marauders were able to salvage the second set, 25-23.
The third set brought the complete opposite result as the preceding one, as Millersville saw their momentum fade away with each of Holy Family’s five-straight opening points. Taking after their opponents, though, the Black and Gold pulled their way back up to contention with a tie game, 22-22. Holy Family’s Emma Herring smacked two kills on Marauder’s side of the net, solidifying a 25-22 win in the third set.
The fourth set acted as a statement by Millersville’s up-and-coming volleyball club, as they fought off another rally from Holy Family, took advantage of a few of their errors and came out on top 25-18.
With the game hanging in the balance, the Marauders assured their home crowd that they weren’t letting game one of the doubleheader tip towards their opponents – with some help, of course. After committing 6 more errors, Holy Family’s hopes of getting their first win of the season diminished as the final set’s score read 15-10.
Millersville showed a balanced method of attack with two players hitting over 10 kills in the game. Veteran hitters Katie Lesinski and Wallace combined for 25 hits. Roman, who hit 10 in the opener, had no problems following up her strong performance with 9 more early on Saturday. First-year junior Mary Paul piled on 6 more, herself.
“Volleyball is a team sport and if only one or two players stand out, then you’re weak in several rotations,” Smith said about his team’s depth. “Our core of hitters hit much better as a unit then last season.”
Defensively, Paul led the way with six blocks; Lesinski followed with five. Below the net, it was Central York-grad Brooklyn Smith who accrued a clutch 30 digs.
“We faced several strong [servers] … and we played well,” Coach Smith said.
Game two ended up not as ideal as the nail-biting victory earlier in the day, as it was one undefeated team versus another undefeated Franklin Pierce Ravens team. No Marauders hit over 10 kills, leaving their defensive group carrying the load through 4 more tight sets.
Their lack of offense resulted in a sputtering start with an 18-25, 21-25 start to the match. Franklin Pierce’s grandiose .343 hitting percentage in the beginning set provided a precedent for the rest of the game – a precedent that had Millersville struggling to catch up to.
In fact, it was only the fourth set that the Lady Marauders found themselves on top of the scoreboard. After putting up a hitting percentage of .185 and .091 in the first two sets, those numbers increased to .257 and launched them to a 25-19 victory.
Continuing their attempt to quell the Ravens’ attack, the Marauders had themselves in an advantageous position up 18-17 in the fourth set. Too bad that was about all the energy they had left, for mistake-after-mistake anchored them below 20 points. The Ravens went on an 8-1 run to put the final touches on their 25-19 win.
At the end of the day, Millersville didn’t find themselves perched atop the PSAC East with their undefeated record.
After sweating buckets and burning off an entire day’s worth of food, Smith isn’t worrying the most minuscule amount about his volleyball squad. His reasoning behind his unwavering attitude was this: it’s only up from here.
“We are a program that is growing and improving. We have gone from being an automatic ‘W’ on someone’s schedule to a team that is taken seriously on the schedule,” Coach Smith said. Referring to last season’s first postseason appearance since 2005, he continued: “Last season was another step in our progression to where we want this program to be. We have high hopes to continue to improve this season but we know we will have to work harder and have the desire to compete for each and every point.”
After kicking off the season with the Marauder Clash at their home gym, the Lady Marauders travel to Delaware to square off against the Wilmington Wildcats. That’ll start an eight-game road-trip and press on the gas pedal and arrive full-swing inside the bowels of the 2013 season – one that the Marauder’s coach has high hopes.
“Work ethic and attitude play a big role in success at any level,” Smith said. “I believe in these girls because I believe we have a group that understands … these principles and [is] willing to strive for success.”
*Calories burned according to myfitnesspal.com