The Tribe knew it had to win both of its matches over homecoming weekend to keep its slim CAA tournament hopes alive, but the squad fell one point short.
William and Mary (9-12, 3-6 CAA) split its weekend matches, sweeping UNC-Wilmington 3-0, before coming up short against Georgia State 3-2. The results eliminated the College from postseason action for the first time since 2006.
“We were not able to perform under the pressure,” Head Coach Melissa Shelton ’91 said.
The College, which held a 46-1 all-time record against the Seahawks heading into Friday’s match, downed UNC-Wilmington, facing little resistance in the win.
The Tribe took a 2-0 advantage after booking a pair of 25-16 victories. UNC-Wilmington briefly held the lead at the beginning of the final set, but the Tribe stormed back to take the set 25-23, and the match 3-0.
“We had a lot of cohesion and meshed well,” freshman hitter Julia Swalchick said. “It was really good to have a three-game win.”
But Saturday night was a different story. Without star junior hitter Lindsay Kresch, the College opened aggressively against Georgia State in a first-set battle that saw 14 ties, 7 lead changes and 2 Tribe set points. But the College could not close, handing the opening stanza to the Panthers, 29-27.
The momentum stayed with Georgia State in the second set, which the College lost 25-18. But with the help of seven kills over the next two sets from sophomore hitter Gina Lang — who stepped in for the injured Kresch to record a team-high of 14 kills — the Tribe stole back-to-back sets to push the match to a decisive fifth and final set.
“During the first and second sets we were just trying to get used to playing against [Georgia State],” Lang said. “Once we came back and knew what was going to happen, we got into a rhythm and played really well.”
In the fifth set, the College fell into an early two-point deficit at 7-5, but clawed back to take the set at 14-13 after an impressive back-row kill from senior hitter Erin Skipper.
But the Panthers were not finished, as hitter Vineece Verdun — who led Georgia State with a match-high 21 kills — buried the ball past the outstretched Tribe defense to push the match to extra points.
The College then secured another match point at 16-15, but then the Panthers rattled off three devastating points to steal the set 18-16, and the match 3-2.
With the Tribe eliminated from postseason play, College coaches will now contemplate whether
or not to begin rotating younger players into the squad’s remaining matches to give them game experience for the future.
“That’s a philosophical question that we’re going to have to ask as a coaching staff to get ready for next year,” Shelton said.