Volleyball team comes back to win in final set

Junior Sabrina Sutton prepares to serve during the Lakers’ 3-2 win Tuesday over St. John Fisher.

In Tuesday’s home debut for first-year head coach JJ O’Connell, the women’s volleyball team defeated St. John Fisher College, 3-2, led by the resilient play of senior Chelsea Crump.

Crump had a game-high .402 hitting percentage, as well as a game-high six serving aces. She led the Lakers in kills with 11, including six in the game’s crucial third set. After the game, O’Connell praised the play of his senior captain.

“Chelsea’s certainly one of our go-to players,” O’Connell said. “The combination of power and touch that she uses on her attacks keeps the opposition off-balance. She just really sees the court well.”

“Playing volleyball is my passion and once I am in that element everything seems to fall into place,” Crump said. “Over the years my game has developed positively and I mainly connect that to my increase in confidence. I know the game and I know what my job is on the court, so it just feels natural to go out there and do my job so our team can succeed.”

The Lakers also got significant play from their leading passer, sophomore Kara Michelsen. She led the Lakers with 28 assists on Tuesday, moving her to 99 assists on the season, a team-high. Michelsen had team-high 493 assists last season.

“Kara does a nice job of mixing up her own attacking while keeping her hitters involved in the offense,” O’Connell said. “She spreads the offense around well and is not afraid to take chances. I look forward to her continued improvement throughout the course of her career.”

Oswego State got off to a tough start against St. John Fisher, dropping the first set 25-12.

The Cardinals scored six consecutive points to end the first set, led by freshman Megan Miller’s five kills.

In the second set, the Lakers shaped up in a big way, scoring six of the set’s final seven points. Freshman Emily Walser led the way with a block, two assists and a service ace. Junior captain Meaghan Puff added two kills.

The Lakers struggled out of the gate in the third set. The Cardinals got a pair of kills early in the set from Miller, as they took an 11-8 lead. The Lakers responded well, winning eight of the next nine points and claiming a 16-12 advantage. Over the course of the run, Crump had two kills and two service aces.

In total, the third set had six lead changes and ten ties, as both teams felt the urgency of taking a 2-1 advantage in the match. The Lakers outlasted the Cardinals with discipline; the Lakers final three points were off Cardinal errors. Crump scored four of the Lakers’ final eight points off kills.

The fourth set was troubling for the Lakers, who started slowly and never got back into it. The Cardinals took a swift 8-1 lead, led by junior Rachael Kline’s two kills. The Lakers remained down by at least six points the entire set, losing the set by twelve; the final score was 25-13.

Both teams were on edge entering the fifth set, as neither team could afford the loss. Oswego State did not want to drop its first home game of O’Connell’s tenure, and St. John Fisher was trying to avoid beginning its season 1-5. What could not be ignored was the effect the home crowd had on the Lakers. The team came back onto the court to roaring support from the Oswego State faithful.

“The crowd was great last night, especially the group that sat right up front,” O’Connell said. “They set the tone on all the big plays and helped us string together some very important runs.”

The Cardinals, however, started the set on a 5-0 run, as they benefted from three Laker errors. The Lakers would go on a 4-0 run of their own to bring the game back within one point.

As the crowd began rallying the Lakers back into the set, the steady play of Michelsen took over the game. She collected four assists and two kills, one of which made it 13-10 late in the set. The Cardinals brought it back within two points off of a Laker service error, but when Miller took over service at 14-12, Crump added her final kill of the evening to seal the victory.

“What I took most out of our victory is pride in my team,” Crump said. “There were moments where we fell apart, but we did not give up and we kept fighting. We just needed to relax and come together to decide we were not going to leave that gym without a win.”

The Lakers (3-4) head to New Paltz this weekend to play in a tournament where they are slated to play four games. They return home on Wednesday, to host Utica College.