West Chester University women’s volleyball team had yet to have a blemish on their perfect 11-0 record this season, but that changed during a weekend slate of league matchups in which they dropped all four of their contests.
WCU suffered defeat at the hands of Seton Hill and Clarion Universities on Friday, and then dropped two contests the following day against California and Indiana Universities of Pennsylvania in a weekend of PSAC crossover action.
The Lady Rams were swept by Seton Hill 25-23, 25-21 and 25-21, and were dusted off in three sets by Clarion 25-10, 25-19 and 25-22. WCU’s 11 straight wins to open the season were their most since they raced out to a 15-0 start in 2007.
West Chester senior Molly Grammar again spearheaded WCU’s offensive attack, combining for a team-high 29 kills in the Lady Rams’ two losses on Friday. Grammar’s sister, M. Grammar, served as chief choreographer offensively with 48 assists in the two games, including a 30 assist, seven dig outing against Seton Hill.
Marina Sharkey had five kills in the Clarion defeat, while Samantha Agostini added four kills as well as three blocks.
Victoria Cruciani added nine kills against Seton Hill, and Allie Duffy poured in eight in addition to her two blocks in the game against Clarion. Libero Nicki Yates notched 18 digs against Seton Hill and 15 against Clarion, while Callie Krajcir chipped in with 11 in the Clarion loss. Bethany Gould also had 9 digs against Seton Hill and eight digs in the match against Clarion.
As for Saturday’s pair of league contests, the Lady Rams fell to California (PA.) in four sets, 25-15, 23-25, 25-18 and 25-17. West Chester struggled offensively, registering only a .124 hitting percentage, led by M. Grammar and her 21 kills. This, paired with a less than stellar defensive showing, directed WCU to their doom.
J. Grammar added 41 assists in the loss, while the trio of Yates (22) Gould (12) and Krajcir (9) yielded a combined 43 digs.
In the loss to Indiana University (PA.) WCU claimed the first set 25-20, but the Crimson Hawks captured three consecutive sets, 25-16, 26-24 and 25-23, to land in the winner’s circle. M. Grammer, Sharkey and Cruciani paced the offensive attack, which culminated into a total of 28 kills amongst the three young ladies.
Duffy did her duties defensively with seven blocks, with Cruciani and J. Grammer not far behind adding five and three respectively. J. Grammar was also her usual facilitating self against Indiana (PA.) as she came out of the match with 31 assists. Gould, J. Grammar and Yates dig totals went in numerical order during this match with Gould adding 12, J. Grammar, 13, and Yates, 14.
WCU actually clung to a one-point lead over the Crimson Hawks during the waning moments of the third set, but an attack error by the Lady Rams knotted things up at 24-24. A kill by the Crimson Hawks’ Lilly McWilliams vaulted them into the lead before another attack effort from WCU tilted the set in Indiana’s (PA.) favor.
The match’s fourth set followed an eerily similar pattern, with WCU holding on to a one-point lead late in the period. Two consecutive IUP kills allowed them to hurdle into the lead before another attack error by West Chester cost them the game and the match, bringing their once perfect record to 11-4 after a rocky weekend.
When asked on Tuesday via e-mail about their pristine start to the season, West Chester University women’s volleyball Head Coach Kassie Bellaver stated that the driving force behind the team’s dominance was “a great preseason,” as well as “great chemistry.” “We are playing outstanding defense and extremely low hitting percentages,” Bellaver added, also stating, “I anticipated this team to be strong,” hence her lack of surprise toward their once perfect record.
Bellaver also imputes WCU’s strong play to the great deal of depth on the roster, which she also cited as one of the ways this group differs than anyone she’s had before. “This team has a tremendous amount of depth at each position. Practices are very competitive, and players are pushing each other every other day.”
After rattling off 11 wins in succession, losing four games in one weekend can be dejecting. Is it possible that complacency from the girls plagued them this weekend? Sure. But knowing Bellaver and her squad, self-satisfaction temporarily hindering their vision is unlikely. When asked if she was worried about the prospect of complacency, Bellaver responded with, “No. They [the girls] are aware of how far this team can go this year if we play to our potential.”
WCU will look to rectify things on Thursday Oct. 1, when they travel to Wilmington, Delaware to take on Goldey-Beacom University in non-league action.
B.J. Boyer is a third-year student and he can be reached at WB806695@wcupa.edu