Having recently earned its first Colonial Athletic Association conference win, William and Mary (5-10, 1-3 CAA) saw its momentum extinguished when it fell to Charleston (4-12, 1-3 CAA) on the road Sunday, Oct. 6.
The first frame simultaneously displayed both the Tribe’s raw offensive talent and wild inconsistency. Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Merrill and junior opposite hitter Kate Dedrick jumped out early with kills that handed the College an opening lead.
“Lauren Merrill and Kate Dedrick had great days today and kept us competitive,” head coach Tim Doyle said. “We need more performance around them to sustain momentum that we build during sets.”
The Cougars went on an unanswered 5-0 scoring run to take their first lead of the first set, making the score 9-7. The College clawed its way back with a kill and an ace from Merrill, but it slipped again almost immediately, proving once more the limits of a six-person starting lineup in which only one or two people regularly contribute.The Tribe continued to trail the Cougars until a kill from junior middle blocker Julia Brown gave the College a 20-19 advantage heading into the final points of the frame. The Cougars refused to relinquish the game, however and took a 22-20 lead before capturing the set by a narrow 25-23 margin.
The College continued its disturbing pattern of outhitting its opponents by a significant margin and yet remaining unable to scrape together enough points to win a set. Although the Tribe’s defense held the Cougars to a measly .176 hitting percentage while the Tribe itself hit .333, it was ultimately outmatched and out-organized by the Cougars.
Doyle expressed frustration at the inconsistency and frequent errors that prevented the College from carrying out any meaningful scoring runs.
“There were several times we had good runs cut short by uncharacteristic mistakes or trying to do too much,” Doyle said.
The Cougars capitalized on a string of such mistakes to open the second frame with an 8-3 lead that they would extend to 17-7 before the College could find its feet. Despite Dedrick’s best efforts and four-kill contribution, the damage was done, and the Cougars coasted to a 25-15 win. For her part, Dedrick recorded double-digit kills for the eighth time in the previous nine matches.
Facing yet another loss within its conference slate, the Tribe fought back in the third game, jumping out with a 5-3 lead off the strength of two kills from Brown, who found her stride again late in the match. Merrill continued to be unstoppable, boosting the Tribe to a 10-8 lead with her tenth kill of the match and earning her second consecutive double-double with 11 total kills and 12 digs. Dedrick piled on with three put-downs of her own, extending the lead to 17-13, but the College’s erratic style of play came back to haunt it as the Cougars came back with a vengeance, taking the game 25-22 and the match 3-0.
“We also have to find ways to finish teams late in the game when we have opportunities,” Doyle said. “We’ll have to force the issue in practice this week so we can capitalize on opportunities next week.”
Aside from Dedrick and Merrill’s contributions, there were few bright spots for the Tribe. However, freshman libero Gabi Ganley, who made her first start in the previous game against North Carolina-Wilmington, was one. Ganley put up strong numbers for the second time, earning 16 digs, racking up a double-digit defensive stat line for the second time in a single weekend.
The College will return home for a three-game stretch, facing Towson, James Madison, and Delaware at Kaplan Arena Oct. 11, 12, and 13, respectively.