It took top-seeded Ohio Wesleyan University's volleyball team four games to put the Yeowomen's season to rest in tournament play Tuesday.
Oberlin's season ended with a 14-16 record - that's 10 more wins than a team with many of the same players won a year ago.
The team qualified for one of the eight spots in the nine-team conference's season-ending tournament after a year's absence. When the team reached the tournament though, they had to meet Ohio Wesleyan University, one of three teams to tie for first in conference.
It took OWU an hour and a half and four long games (4-15, 3-15, 15-12, 5-15) to put Oberlin away.
OWU used some of its reserve players to start the third game. By the end, all the starters had returned to the court and it still wasn't enough to beat Oberlin.
"That [game] was a big win," coach Suzanne Garland said. "You'd think we'd won the match."
Over the course of the season, Oberlin kept improving by reducing the number of minor breakdowns it experienced. "When you're playing a better team, you can't afford 3- and 3-point lapses. That's a 15-12 game," Garland said.
The Yeowomen warmed up for tournament play Saturday with 4-1 and 3-1 victories over Chatham College and Notre Dame College of Ohio. The Yeowomen played those games without setter Nell Hanssen, who was away at a family member's wedding.
Senior Karen Rosenbaum filled in for Hanssen and, according to Garland, did a fine job.
The team's improvement was astounding, especially considering that it had never had more than seven healthy players.
The difference, junior Katie Ruth said, was mainly attitude. "We play to win. Last year, our goal was only to play really well."
Ruth attributed that new life largely to Garland and the confidence the team picked up in its first weekend of play - the Oberlin Invitational, where the Yeowomen began the season with three wins.
"I think our opening tournament set us off on the right foot," Ruth said.
Garland is already recruiting players for next year. They'll be needed - not just to build towards the goal of having enough players on the team to run a full scrimmage, but also to make sure there are enough players to play.
Seniors Rosenbaum, Naeli Jeon and Hanssen will not be back next year. That leaves Oberlin looking for a setter especially - though it can make use of players at any position.
Next year, Garland wants Oberlin's record to eclipse .500 for the first time since 1980. But the competition will be stiffer during the part of the season that comes before NCAC meets.
In the conference play, Oberlin managed one win out of eight games, though the team feels it's getting more recognition from those in the volleyball community than it did before.
"Every game the ref said something to me," Ruth said. "Parents from other teams came up to me too. They used to think, `Oh, poor Oberlin, those smart kids can't play well, but they try.'"
But this year, those smart kids lost only two more games than they won.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 8; November 8, 1996
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