The Chapman women’s volleyball team showed its resiliency Friday night as the Panthers captured a five-set victory over Pomona-Pitzer, and again on Saturday, defeating Redlands in a three-set sweep.
On Friday, Chapman (5-3, 2-0) seemed to be in control from the outset, taking the first two games with relative ease, 25-17 and 25-22. The Panthers then lost the next two sets, and were forced to dig themselves out of a hole caused by the 24-26 and 22-25 losses in the third and fourth games.
The apparent ease in the first two sets may have been the cause of Chapman’s let down in the following sets.
“Whenever you win the first two sets, there’s usually going to be a let down,” said head coach Mary Cahill. “We very easily could have lost.”
Chapman showed some of its best and worst qualities Friday night, but it was ultimately the Panthers’ composure and ability to kill efficiently that secured the victory.
Sophomore right side hitter Kylie Cooke and sophomore middle blocker Ali Robinson were instrumental in Chapman’s attacking, knocking down 20 and 12 kills, respectively, out of 41 and 25 chances.
This efficiency was ever-present in the final game, as Chapman rebounded after being outclassed in hitting percentage in the third and fourth sets. Regardless of the path Chapman took to get the victory, the women felt positive about the outcome of the match, dealing a previously 5-0 Pomona team its first loss of the season.
Robinson said the key to Chapman’s victory was a result of the team’s control. She said that the five-set win was positive, especially for the rest of the season.
“Coming into the fifth game, it can be really difficult, and your team can be really tired, and our control really helps us for further teams who may be even tougher opponents,” she said.
Robinson admitted that having 10 new players makes things a bit back and forth. However, she said the composure the team showed is evidence that the team is playing as a cohesive unit and could prove invaluable in the future.
Cahill said the team’s passing was one of its strong points, especially in the first two sets. After what she referred to as a “let-down” in the third and fourth sets, it was “serving tough” in the fifth game, which allowed the Panthers to close out a tough conference match with a 15-6 finish.
Robinson said that the positivity that the women showed throughout the match was evidence of their confidence and skill.
Robinson said that the strength of the team’s setters and the ability of substitutes to come in ready off the bench would pay huge dividends for the team down the line.
Cahill said she’s well aware of the tough matches ahead.
“We need to be more consistent,” she said. “Consistency is going to be key for the rest of the year.”
The team continued its hot start to the season on Saturday, however the Panthers did not exactly coast though the match. The first game encapsulated much of the same high-intensity play as Friday, with Chapman prevailing 29-27.
The tight nature of the first game was largely a result of Chapman’s own mistakes. The Panthers made nine errors in the first set, nearly putting themselves in an early hole.
Regardless of the early mistakes made, Chapman seemed determined to finish strong. In the final two gamess, Chapman cut its errors down to five in each set, and improved its hitting percentage in both.
The Panthers’ attacking was led by Cooke, responsible for 14.5 points, and senior outside hitter Michele Hammer, responsible for 13. The team was again well organized thanks to the efforts of freshman setter Kaitlyn Raymundo, who was responsible for 48 assists.
Assistant coach John Cahill was pleased with the team’s performance, but not surprised at the result after the previous night’s hard-fought win.
“It gives you confidence when you come back. We obviously were leading, in control of the match, and made some changes and gave them some life, though we fought through it,” he said. “So if we’re ever in that situation again we know we’ll be ok. But I think overall if everybody does their job, helps each other out, we’re a pretty good team.”
It certainly seemed that the Panthers did their jobs in the second and third sets, limiting Redlands to 17 and 21 points in each set. The confident finish to the game is exactly what the team hopes to see on a consistent basis.
“I think it’s a good indicator of our season and hopefully where we stand at the end of the season,” said freshman setter Savy Janssen.
Cahill is confident for the rest of the season.
“I think we’re on the right track. We still have a ways to go – we’ve got a tough conference, some highly ranked teams,” he said. “So we’ve got to beat the people that, on paper, we’re supposed to beat, and we’ve got to get after the people that are maybe ranked above us, and be ready to go for those games.”
An away win on Tuesday against Pomona-Pitzer could give Chapman an important pair of victories over one of its more difficult conference opponents. With two top-25 ranked opponents in California Lutheran University and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps still yet to be faced, Chapman has a long way to go in the year, but the early results are undoubtedly positive, and could be invaluable in helping the Panthers build some early consistency.