The Wheaton volleyball team’s first competitive playoff appearance in three years ended in heartbreak on Saturday, Nov. 4, as they faced defeat at the hands of top-seeded MIT with a score of 3-2. It was a bitter ending to the season for a group of NEWMAC championship hopefuls, with the program boasting its best record since 1997 at 24 wins and nine losses.
The Lyons started strong, taking the first set by a 15-point margin. Fueled by an 11-point run, they finished the match 25-10. Claire Cansler ’19 picked up five of her team-leading 10 kills in the set, while Stephanie Martin ’18 and Becca Houghton ’20 each provided some clutch digs. After losing the second set, the Lyons squeaked out a 25-21 win in the third, thanks to five service aces between Houghton and Julia Palomba ’21. Though Wheaton led early in the eventual fifth set, the Engineers took the lead, finishing the final set at 15-10. Cansler led Wheaton in both kills and blocks, with 10 and four, respectively.
While the pain of such a premature ending to their season certainly stings, the Lyons are hopeful for the future. Nikita Selivan ’20 stated, “Thinking about next year is so exciting! We have our returners coming back seasoned and stronger than before, and we have incoming players with a lot of skill and drive to be on the court. On top of that, we will be coming with the confidence we built up this season. I honestly cannot wait; it will be a lot of fun and we will definitely see some amazing results from the team.”
In terms of returning personnel, only two players, Martin and Allison Cox ’18, played their final game in blue and white last Saturday. Assuming no absences, this year’s squad will feel familiar stepping on to the court next season.
This was head coach Craig Letourneau’s seventh season in charge of the Lyons and his second appearance in the NEWMAC tournament, posting a 93-113 career record. Letourneau spoke highly of this group, saying, “Even when they were not playing their best volleyball, they maintained their composure and made adjustments to help them succeed. They also put in a lot of extra time working on their skills outside of practice. Extra reps always help with comfort level on the court.”
As far as next season stands, expectations run high for the group to raise the bar they set this season.