We’ve all heard the commercials… “You gotta get to, you gotta get to… Haven!” Well, Millersville’s women’s volleyball team had a different motto in mind on Saturday: “You gotta get to the playoffs!”
With the season winding down, the lady Marauders (13-16, 6-11 PSAC) traveled to Lock Haven, PA to battle a divisional powerhouse, the Lock Haven Eagles (22-9, 14-3 PSAC), which they upset earlier in the fall season. Unfortunately, the same result did not come about as Millersville fell 3-1, although competing hard in each set, 25-22, 22-25, 25-19, and 25-23.
Despite the loss, Millersville got an invite to the PSAC tournament thanks to a helpful win over East Stroudsburg by Shippensburg. A win against ESU previously in the week by the lady Marauders surely aided in their playoff chances.
“I spoke with the team about the importance of the matches this past weekend,” Brian Smith, Millersville’s head coach began. “We had two goals: one was to take care of ESU and the other was to play quality volleyball against the top-ranked Lock Haven,” he continued. “We accomplished both this weekend.”
The 104 in attendance had the pleasure of watching the underdog Marauders put up a strong performance in the foursetter. In the match, the young Millersville team kept their heads above water against the top team in the PSAC East, with a .219 hitting percentage against Lock Haven’s .262.
Two of Millersville’s top freshmen – which make up nearly half of their starting squad – did their share to make it possible for Millersville to tug on Lock Haven’s shirt as they plow their way through the PSAC East.
Samantha Agostini, third on the team in kills, added nine more to her stat-sheet. Another youngen, Taylor Smith, helped out her team with six kills and only one error.
“Both of our Outside Hitters, Taylor Smith and Katie Lesinski, had good matches against Lock Haven,” Smith said.
As the head coach pointed out, sophomore Lesinski furthered herself from the rest of Millersville’s other kill leaders, with 14 more on Saturday, totaling to 272 on the season. But without veterans Sue Caramanico and Jessica Franz’ skillful passing, the young portion of the Marauder’s team wouldn’t be able to put up those kind of numbers.
Franz continued her assisting party through Saturday, adding 33 to her 841 on the year.
“(They) had an exceptional weekend passing,” Smith said. On the defensive side, four lady Marauders dug double-digit balls, including Caramanico and Franz (10), Taylor Smith (12), and fellow freshman Brooklyn Smith (15).
Although Millersville’s solid play wasn’t enough on Saturday, the pubescent crew continues to improve as the season progresses, inching closer and closer to the postseason which the Marauders have been newly admitted.
“We have been able to improve and we have a list of things we want to work on,” their head coach said. “We start so many freshmen and you don’t see that in college very often, but the goal is to not focus on the big picture; (it is) simply to improve week to week.”
During the course of this fall season, Millersville has had losing streaks of three, four and five games. On the contrary, they’ve had a five-game winning streak as well as two threegamers, so inconsistency is a factor with this team.
“With a youthful team, you expect some bumps in the road,” Smith said about his team, whose group of gals divvies into seven freshmen, three sophomores, six juniors and only one senior. “We have only lost a handful of matches that we should or could have won.”
Acknowledging the situation that the new coming freshmen have dealt with and admiring the effort they have put in, Smith continued, “Many of the starters are not only getting used to the new level of play in college, but also the new coaches and the transition from home to campus life. That’s a handful in your first semester away from home.”
As the PSAC tournament looms, head coach Smith will have to rally his squad with two pivotal games left in the season. The remaining matches on the fall schedule include West Chester on Friday and Cheyney just a day later, and are games that are vital to the Marauder’s seeding in the playoffs.
With a tough challenge well-met on Saturday, Smith and his volleyball team look only to forge in the positive direction.
“It’s clear that we have earned some respect from our fellow PSAC East teams with the progress of our program,” he said, “and that is what we are looking to continue.” Student support is vital! Come out and support the Lady Marauders.