As the sweltering dog days of August rolled into September, Wheaton’s volleyball team concluded an intense two week preseason routine and turned their attention to the upcoming season.
“As a junior, I feel that this year is going to be the culmination of the past two years,” right side hitter Casey Hess ’16 explained. “When my class first started our time at Wheaton, we were nervous and fresh-faced. This year is different.”
The team has improved exponentially under the leadership of Head Coach Craig Letourneau. After finishing a dismal 10-22 in 2012, the Lyons bolstered their record to 14-17 and came just one win short of qualifying for the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament.
Letourneau doesn’t believe the Lyons are done improving, either. The head coach called this year’s group “the best defensive team I have had here at Wheaton in my tenure.”
Unfortunately, inconsistency has plagued the Lyons early on. They opened the season with three straight losses at the Wheaton Invitational, falling to Western New England, Neumann, and Westfield State.
The Lyons looked to turn their fortunes around at the multi-day Ocean State Classic this past weekend. Deirdre Wilson ’16 led the charge against Salve Regina in Game 1, taking home 9 kills, 9 assists, 13 digs and 2 blocks. The effort was not enough, however, as the Lyons were out hit, out blocked and out aced in three straight sets.
In Game 2 of the Classic, Wheaton faced Southern Vermont, and things began to click. Again, Wilson piled on the attack with 12 putaways, 8 assists and 3 digs. The Lyon’s defense came to life, holding Vermont to an anemic .010 hitting percentage in the 3-0 victory.
But the momentum didn’t last long. Despite fashioning a season high 12.5 blocks, Wheaton fell 3-1 in Game 3 of the Classic. Colby-Sawyer’s Stephanie Vecchio dominated the Lyons with with 16 kills and setter Laura Smolinski dished out a match-high 42 assists.
The final game proved even more disappointing, as Wheaton was outscored by Roger Williams 92-66 in the four set loss. This, despite a second straight double-double from Deirdre Wilson ’16 and their defense recording an impressive 8 blocks.
Coach Letourneau was especially disappointed by the Classic’s results. “We didn’t do a well enough job of finishing the sets,” he said. “Our goal is to be one of the top teams in New England, but we need to work at playing consistently at a high level pace.”
Despite a disappointing 4-7 record, the Lyons haven’t lost hope. There’s a lot of time for improvement before their NEWMAC tournament fate is determined.
“This is our year,” Hess said. “Maybe that’s a little cocky, but I cannot bring myself to change my opinion. Wheaton volleyball is going to win a NEWMAC championship.” The team had a great start to conference play beating WPI 3-0 so their goals are truly attainable at this point.
The Lyons Volleyball team will be in action at home in conference play against Springfield (Sept. 30 @ 7:00pm). They then look forward to playing Emmanuel (Oct. 2nd @ 7:00pm) also at home.