The volleyball team suffered its first loss of the season last weekend. At the start of the weekend they were 16th in the national standings but have since dropped to 14th despite the loss. They also still remain undefeated in NESCAC play, having swept Tufts and Trinity 3-0 apiece.
Grace Bell ’23 considered the match against Tufts on September 16 as one of the highlights of the current season.
“Playing Tufts is such a moving experience,” Bell wrote in an email to The Argus. “Sweeping them for the first time since 2002 deserves to be on the highlight reel of the season so far.”
Almost everyone on the team agrees that they are the best they have ever been. Mariko Tanaka ’24 highlighted the depth of the team and the strong determination of the players.
“We have so much depth in talent and with consistent hard work I have no doubt we can go very far this year,” Tanaka wrote in an email to The Argus. “It will be tough and tough for us physically, but I’m confident that our goal of winning will motivate us to improve every week and move forward.”
The team makes an active effort to gel well; they are very intentional in focusing on teamwork rather than individuality.
“Honestly, I’m so impressed with how our team fits together so well despite all the different personalities,” Tanaka wrote. “I appreciate them so much, not only because they are a team full of competitors, but also because no matter who is on the pitch, the support we give each other allows us to succeed.
On September 24, the Rouge et Noir organized an invitation for Tufts, Susquehanna University and New York University (NYU). They faced Susquehanna and NYU in back-to-back matches.
The Cardinals cruised through their game against Susquehanna, winning in a 3-0 sweep.
Tanaka led the way with 11 kills, followed by Bianca Gonya ’25 with five, and Sophia Lindus ’26 with four. With nine straight wins under their belt, Wesleyan met NYU at Silloway Gymnasium for their toughest match yet.
The crowd was lively as the players entered the field, with Wesleyan and NYU spectators leading the cheers to cheer on their respective teams. At the start of the first set, I felt like the whole gym was holding its breath.
The first set was a constant back and forth. The Cardinals would be up six, then NYU would fight back and take the lead. Eventually, Wesleyan managed to tie it 21-21 before finally capturing the set with a service ace. to score a score of 25 to 23.
With this first victory, the energy swelled in Silloway. After a hard effort from both sides, NYU ended up coming away with the second set 25-27. With the game tied at 1–1, the third set would be critical in terms of capturing momentum and heading.
However, the Cardinals were determined to play on their own terms in the third set. They took a lead midway through the set and held it to finish 25-20. They only had to win one more game to defeat NYU.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan and NYU wasn’t quite ready to give up. In the fourth set, the two teams traded points before the Violets took a solid seven-point lead. Wesleyan tried his best to recover and stay alive, but they ended up losing the fourth set 21-25.
It was the first time this season the Cardinals had a five-set first leg. In the fifth set, the teams switch sides at eight points, and the set ends at 15 rather than 25. Although Zoe Swift ’25 has two consecutive blocks (one solo, one pass) to avoid the build-up of NYU, the Violets ultimately stole the lead and the match, winning the final set 10-15.
Despite the results, the cardinals found points of pride as well as identified aspects to work on. Their ability to rely on each other allowed them to adjust and adapt to any situation.
Volleyball at Wesleyan is not just about the team record, but also the limits the players will go to. While volleyball revolves around an inanimate object, Cardinals will always bring the ideas of cooperation and teamwork to life.
Lindus highlighted how the team focuses on each other through adversity.
“[Head Coach of Volleyball Ben Somera] calmed our nerves by saying we have so much depth in our team that we can play against Tufts in our gym, but they can’t replicate us in their gym, which was awesome,” Lindus said.
Even with their strong roster, however, going from game to game can take a mental toll. Bell noted that having to maintain energy throughout multiple matches can be stressful, especially when matches go up to five sets.
“I think the hardest thing about playing the sequel is maintaining the game mentality after you’ve already played,” Bell wrote. “Usually after a game you are able to breathe, relax and let go of the intensity and the pressure that a game brings. Playing two games does not allow this relaxation because the players have to stay in a state of mind game.”
The Cardinals remain focused on the positives from last weekend. Somera remains optimistic about the team’s future.
“We’ve had a very successful season so far and last weekend’s competition showed us areas of our games we can improve,” Somera wrote in an email to The Argus. “Like all the teams in the country, we try [to] improve as quickly as possible and there are things within our control that we can do better to facilitate day-to-day improvement.
The volleyball team has been focusing on hard work since pre-season, and every player wants to take him and his team to the next level.
“Our training that took place in pre-season definitely helped our successful start to the season,” said Grace Dennis ’23. “In the past, we [tended] take the time to adjust to the new school year and integrate freshmen into our program, but this year was much different. We immediately got to work, we competed hard every day, and I can say with confidence that our training is the reason we have played so well together so far.
As the season continues, the Cardinals are focused on bringing what the game taught them with them into the future. Concretely, the Red and Black are eager for championship. Not that they need to, because Cardinals have always been the epitome of success through trials and tribulations.
In the meantime, the Cardinals travel to Maine to face Colby and Bates on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 1 at 12 p.m., respectively. Cardinals have no time to wallow; they have so much to look forward to.
Dennis is one of many players who are excited about the championships the Cardinals have in sight.
“I look forward to the various ‘championships’ to come,” Dennis said. “The Little Three (home) Championship is right around the corner, and the NESCAC Championship is just a few weeks away. These championships are always fun to compete in, and I think we’ll have a good chance of winning both if we keep training and playing as a team.
Cameron Bonnevie can be reached at [email protected].
Oluchi Chukwuemeka can be reached at [email protected].