Tribe splits openening matches against CAA rivals

RYAN GOODMAN // THE FLAT HAT Graduate outside hitter Lauren Burrell has been one of the Tribe's most dominant offensive weapons, leading the team in kills with 163 in 2023 alone.

Saturday, Sept. 16, William and Mary volleyball (7-7, 2-2 CAA) began its conference play against Coastal Athletic Association opponent Charleston (4-11, 1-3 CAA) at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va. 

Saturday’s game marked the beginning of the non-invitational portion of the Tribe’s schedule, which involves playing two match series every weekend until the regular season concludes in Nov.

The Tribe looked to bounce back from a disappointing 0-3 weekend at the Bobcat Invitational earlier this month, and with a home series to begin CAA play, the Tribe had no intention of letting Saturday’s match slip through its fingers.

The first set immediately showed how tightly-contested the rest of the weekend would be. After pulling ahead to a quick 4-1 lead due to a pair of Charleston errors and kills from graduate hitter Taylor Burrell and senior blocker Sabrina Malcolm, the Cougars clawed its way back to even the match at 4-4. For the next four points, the two teams went score for score, leading to an 8-8 contest after a kill from freshman right side Katherine Arnason.

The Tribe started heating up in the back half of the first set, recording four consecutive points courtesy of three Tribe kills. The Cougars again fought its way back, and as the set reached the 17-point mark, both teams were tied once again. After a 4-0 Charleston run off of four Tribe errors, William and Mary went on the defensive. Five kills later – including three from Burrell – the Green and Gold and the Cougars again found themselves locked at 24-24. Despite its effort, the Tribe let up two unanswered kills by Charleston graduate hitter Lexi Wierzbicki and dropped the first set 26-24.

Both teams picked up in the second set where they left off in the first.The beginning of the set was dead equal, and as both teams scored its 13th points, the score was again knotted at an even 13-13. However, after another 4-0 run, the Tribe never let its lead slip away. Burell and Arnason continued their offensive production for the Tribe, which also saw kills from graduate setter Emma Minnick and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Callender. After a late-set stutter, the Tribe pulled ahead to secure the second set win by a score of 25-22.

After an impressive 12-point win in the third set and a quick 25-16 loss in the fourth, the Tribe found itself fighting for its first CAA win going into the tie-breaking 15-point fifth set. The Green and Gold put up six unanswered points to start the fifth, and despite its best effort, the Cougars could never fully recover. William and Mary took the final set 15-10 and walked away with a much-needed first win of the week.

Sunday’s match started off ice cold for the Green and Gold. The Cougars came out firing, and after 25-18 and  25-17 wins in the first two sets, the visitors from Charleston found itself just 25 points away from splitting the weekend series in three consecutive sets. The Tribe dug in to prevent a sweep.

After falling behind 12-7 to start, the Tribe slowly closed the Cougar lead, finally tying the set at 19-19 after two timely kills from Callender and two Charleston errors. The Cougars pushed ahead again, taking a 24-22 lead. For match point, a timely service error by Wierzbicki opened the door for a 4-0 Tribe run. Thanks to another Charleston error and two clutch kills from Burrell, the Green and Gold escaped set three with a sneaky 26-24 win.

The fourth set was a battle of runs for the two teams. After being tied 12-12, Charleston went on a 5-0 run, in part because of three Tribe errors. After letting one point slip, the Cougars went on yet another run, this time scoring three straight points to extend its late-set lead to six. The Tribe, no longer strangers to coming from behind late in sets, responded with the match’s largest run of the day. Seven scores later, William and Mary found themselves ahead of Charleston once again, this time by a score of 21-20. After going point for point to 24-24, another Burrell kill and Cougar error ended the fourth set with another 26-24 win for the Tribe. 

With only 15 points between William and Mary and a comeback win for the weekend series sweep, the home team went into set number five determined to earn the win. Identically to Saturday’s fifth set, the Green and Gold started the tie-breaker with six unanswered points. This time, however, the Cougars responded. After a six-point run of its own, both teams were tied again with only five points left.

At this point, the Tribe had come too far to let the match slip away. After kills from Callender and freshman hitter Audrey Brcka, the Green and Gold took the fifth set again, this time by a score of 15-13 to start its CAA season at an impressive 2-0.

Looking to keep its streak rolling into the next series, the Tribe traveled to Gore Arena in Buies Creek, NC to take on Campbell on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The Camels wasted no time shutting down William and Mary. Saturday’s match lasted only three sets, all of which resulted in Camel wins. After dropping the first set 25-16 and the second 25-20, it seemed like the Green and Gold had finally figured out Campbell in the third. After leading for most of the set going into the 21st point, William and Mary let up five points in just seven plays, costing the team the set and the match. 

The Camels beat the Tribe in almost every category during Saturday’s match, leading in points (48 to 34), kills (41 to 29), aces (five to three), assists (38 to 27) and digs (57 to 51). 

Sunday, the Tribe looked to finish on the right foot and leave Buies Creek with a win. 

In the first set, however, things looked more and more like a replay of the day before. After a six point Campbell run midway through the first set, the Green and Gold found itself down 15-7. William and Mary slowly pulled its way back into the match, pulling the score within two at 20-18 after a serve ace from Burrell to cap off a three point Tribe swing. Despite the late run, the Camels successfully closed out the set, taking a fourth consecutive set from the Tribe.

The second set saw a Tribe team that looked more similar to the weekend prior against Charleston. The Green and Gold capitalized on every Campbell error and won the set 25-20, evening the match at one set apiece.

The third set led William and Mary into familiar territory — a late set tiebreaker. After a back-and-forth race to 25, the Camels and Tribe struggled to pull ahead by the needed two points and finish the set off. After taking a one point lead at 26-25, the Tribe’s two self-inflicted errors allowed a kill from Campbell senior hitter Chloe Cook to win the set for the Camels.

After rallying back and winning set four 25-20 again, the Tribe needed to take one more fifth set to secure its first conference win on the road. However, Campbell proved to be too tough to overcome, and after a hot start, the Camels finished off business with a resounding 15-9 win.

The Tribe will look to right the ship on Saturday, Sept. 30 when it travels to Hampton (0-6, 0-4 CAA) to take on the Pirates in Hampton, Va at 1 p.m. 


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