The Oswego State volleyball team went 3-1 during the Oswego State Tournament last weekend in the Max Ziel Gymnasium at Laker Hall.
The Lakers split their matches on Friday night against Wells College and St. Lawrence University, defeating the Express, 3-0, before falling in the night cap to the Saints, 3-1.
Coming off a long, grueling defeat on Wednesday night, Oswego State did not looking rusty at all at the start. Points were easy to come by in the opening set for the Lakers, as they were able to grab points without expending much effort. The Lakers took the first set, 25-18.
The second set was where Oswego State took full control of the match. The Lakers took plenty of easy points as the Express’ communication was really lacking, leading to multiple errors. The home side took the set, 25-18.
The final set against the Express was as comfortable as each of the first two sets, as they clinched the victory, 25-16. Oswego State, similar to in the first two sets, had opportunities to close out the set sooner. Instead of putting away the set quickly, the Lakers seemed to be OK with just winning comfortably, as they let the Express hang around. Wells College has now been swept by the Lakers in each of their two meetings over the past two seasons.
Senior middle blocker Stephanie Bailey led the way with 11 kills in the match. Edwards led the team in assists with 17 and junior setter Olivia Zimmerman contributed 16 of her own. Ruggaber continued to be a defensive presence, leading the team with 15 digs.
Against the Saints, the Lakers played a close match throughout. The first set helped set the tone for the match, which would be a fiercely competitive affair. The set was evenly matched, as the teams went back and forth trying to gain the upperhand. It was so close that the set needed to be extended to a tiebreak. Both teams were hungry to win it, but when all was said and done, the Saints prevailed, 27-25.
The Lakers then dropped a crucial second set, which was tightly contested and was up in the air until the end. It was tied on two different occasions at 11-11 and 18-18. Yet, in the end, the Saints, as they had done in the first set, grinded out a narrow two-point victory, 26-24.
After dropping two extremely close sets, the Lakers got one back in the third. Oswego State got off to a fast start in the third before St. Lawrence made its move. However, the Lakers were able to hold on and extend the match with the set victory, 25-23. The set was just another example of the match’s back and forth feel throughout the night.
During the fourth set, in what turned out to be the final one, fatigue seemed to have taken its toll on the team, as they dropped it, 25-13.
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Dillon and sophomore middle blocker Megan Russell each had eight kills, tied for the team-high, while sophomore setters Lauren Edwards and Lindsay Champitto led the side in assists with 17 and 15, respectively. Junior libero Rachel Ruggaber paced the team with 11 digs, as well.
Oswego State would go on to win both of its matches to finish off the tournament Saturday, defeating the Hamilton College Continentals, 3-2, before defeating the SUNY Potsdam Bears, 3-0.
In the first match of the day, it was about as tight as it gets. Oswego State and Hamilton went back and forth the whole way. The Lakers won the first set, 25-22. The Continentals would come back to win two sets in a row, winning the second set, 28-26 and then the third set, 25-22. Oswego State won the fourth set, 25-23, to send the match to a deciding fifth set.
In the three times the Lakers have played in a fifth set this season, they were winless. But Oswego State changed that with winning a big fifth set, 15-12. O’Connell recognized how important it was for the team to get a win in that fashion after the early season struggles it had dealt with.
“I think it’s something we have really been working on this year is closing games out. Last weekend when we had Skidmore in five, we weren’t as successful as we like. We had the opportunity in a couple close games with St. Lawrence yesterday and again drop the ball. So to get right back in that situation this morning and be successful was really big for our team,” O’Connell said. “You could just see the difference in the players. They were aggressive the whole way through.”
Bailey also felt good about her team finally pulling out a decisive fifth set.
“It feels fantastic. We work so hard and we’ve not had the best luck in the past couple days in the fifth set. So to actually win the fifth set was awesome,” Bailey said.
Dillon had the most kills for the Lakers with 19. Her effort the entire weekend led her to be named Oswego State Female Athlete of the Week, for the week ending Sept. 14. Zimmerman had the most assists, with 27, and digs with 22. Edwards also had a solid game with 10 digs and 25 assists.
The second match started out as a tight one with the Lakers and Bears going back and forth for much of the first set. Oswego State then went on a bit of a run that led to a 25-19 set win.
After the first set, Oswego State took full control of the match. SUNY Potsdam started to make more and more errors, while the Lakers played very comfortably. The team’s success this weekend was in large part due to a successful execution of head coach J. J. O’Connell‘s strategy for the tournament.
“Our kids are really comfortable playing with each other. We have great chemistry. I rotated the lineups a lot this weekend and played everybody basically,” O’Connell said. “They looked good together and our ball control and setting were in pretty good locations.”
Oswego State won the second set, 25-15, and then finished off the sweep in third, 25-18.
The Lakers won the match against the Bears without Bailey, their lone senior. Bailey is dealing with an injury and O’Connell decided to sit her for the second match of the day. Bailey was pleased to see her teammates step up and perform well in her absence.
“It feels fantastic knowing that if I’m not 100 percent that we have so many amazing people that are just ready to step in and take over and kill it for us,” Bailey said.
Junior middle blocker Hannah Dahlgren led the Lakers in kills with 11, and hitting percentage with a .714 success rate. Zimmerman led the team in assists with 19, while Ruggaber had the most digs of the match for the Lakers with 10.
With the 3-1 record in the tournament, Oswego State’s record improves their record to 6-7 overall. Up next for the Lakers is the SUNY Geneseo Tournament next weekend. They are scheduled to play University of Rochester, Medaille College, SUNY Canton and Hilbert College over the course of Friday and Saturday. Oswego State’s next home match comes Friday, Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. against the College at Brockport for the beginning of SUNYAC pool play in Oswego.