By ZACHERY JAFFE
The Hopkins women’s volleyball team dropped three straight matches to ranked opponents during the Courtyard Marriott National Invitational in Springfield, Ohio before returning to Maryland to defeat regional foe Salisbury University Sea Gulls.
In the first match of the Invitational the Jays took on the No. 10 Eagles of Juniata College and were dispatched in three quick sets, 25-15, 25-21, 25-12. The turning point of the match came at the end of the second set, where the Eagles won the final four points after being tied at 21 apiece. The Jays struggled against the high-powered Juniata attack, which hit at a .241 percentage, much higher than the .032 Hopkins percentage. Juniata also totaled 10 more digs and eight more service aces than Hopkins.
The next day, the Jays opened up play against No. 4 Wittenburg University. The results were much the same as the previous day, with the Jays battling at the beginning of each set, only to succumb to late Tiger runs. One bright spot in the match against the Tigers was sophomore Kristi Rhead, who led the team with 10 assists.
Later that day the Blue Jays faced off against No. 17 St. Thomas. This match would prove to be a thriller. After the Tommies took the first two sets handily (25-13, 25-20), the Blue Jays battled back to even the match at two sets apiece (25-21, 25-23). In the fifth set, the Jays ran out of steam and fell 15-7. Sophomore Elizabeth Wuerstle and senior Carolyn Zin shined in the match, collecting 25 kills and 32 assists, respectively. Freshman Michelle Abt earned her first career double-double with 11 kills and 16 digs. Senior Stephanie Yokoyama collected a team-high 19 digs.
The Jays returned to the Old Line State to take on the Salisbury University Sea Gulls in another out of conference bout. The results this time would differ, and the Jays would snap their three-game skid. The Jays gutted out a hard-fought, five-set victory in Salisbury, Md.
The two teams split the first four sets, 26-24, 22-25, 25-19, 22-5, before the Blue Jays won the clincher, 16-14. In the decisive set, the Jays fought back from a 10-6 deficit to knot it at 12 apiece. Freshman Michelle Abt finished the set and match with an electric kill. Seniors Ali Cox and Carolyn Zin led the way for Hopkins, with 19 kills and 42 assists, respectively. The assist total from the senior setter was the highest of her career.
When asked about the weekend’s results, Zin was realistic.
“Results-wise we did not accomplish what we wanted,” Zin said. “We saw sparks of greatness.”
The team showed resiliency against Salisbury after losing three straight.
“The purpose of playing these ranked teams is to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for a future NCAA schedule,” Yokoyama said. “With lots of traveling we are becoming more accustomed to competing comfortably in a new environment.”
“Most of our games this season are on the road,” Zin said.
The Jays will in fact be playing 17 of their 24 games away from Goldfarb Gym, a total that will certainly test the will of the young Blue Jays.
Hopkins will not return to Goldfarb Gym until they take on Washington College on Sept. 16, a 15-day gap between home games.
Both Yokoyama and Zin believe that the early-season contests against top-ranked opponents will aid the Jays going into Centennial Conference-play.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to expose our weaknesses early in the season,” Yokoyama said. “We can improve on them before getting into conference and postseason play.”
When asked about those weaknesses both Zin and Yokoyama focused on the same thing: consistency.
“Consistency is key for us,” Zin said.
The Blue Jays (2-3) return to action on Sept. 11 against Birmingham-Southern College in the Emory Classic in Atlanta, Ga.
“I wouldn’t count us out of anything,” Zin said. “We are a team on a mission.”