Assistant Sports Editor
The VCU women’s volleyball team left Friday’s match against William & Mary with an unsettling feeling. After taking a 2-1 lead with postseason destiny in their control, the Rams were one set away from from clinching a Colonial Athletic Association Tournament berth before dropping a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to the Tribe.
“Right now I am just so disappointed; we came out ready to play, and the girls were really prepared mentally and ready to take care of business,” head coach James Finley said. “One of the things that’s been haunting the past few weeks is not being able to finish when we’re up and letting somebody come back in, and I think that hurt us.”
VCU entered the floor with poise and energy in the first set, led by senior Mariel Frey (Lititz, Pa./Manheim Twp.), who registered five kills and five digs to give the Rams a 25-18, one-game advantage.
The energy continued midway through the second set when VCU jumped out to a 13-9 lead to force a William & Mary timeout. Third-year head coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton’s timeout would prove vital for the Tribe, who managed to combat the Rams early attack by staging a crucial comeback, taking the second set 25-23 on a controversial kill that had the VCU bench in a state of dismay.
The third set showcased a defensive neck-and-neck battle highlighted by Rams’ outside hitter Kristin Boyd (Wilmington, N.C./John T. Hoggard High), who mastered continuous commanding kills that added to her 14 on the night to give VCU a 25-20 set victory and a one-game advantage.
At the start of the fourth set, up 2-1, the Rams came out with the opportunity to take the match and turn their postseason dreams into reality. The Tribe had other plans after a back-and-forth start to the fourth set when they began to pull away with a 20-16 lead in the set’s late stages. VCU made an attempt to cut into the William & Mary lead, pulling as close as within two points at 22-20, but the Tribe would be too much for the Rams, and they took the fourth set 25-20, sending the match to a fifth and deciding set.
With a chance to secure its spot in the CAA Tournament, the fifth set would take a heartbreaking turn for VCU, which allowed William & Mary to contain the lead throughout the majority of the game, finally placing a 15-11 damper on the mood of the Verizon Wireless Arena and the season for the Rams who would await scores from around the league over the weekend to decide if they would contend in postseason play.
Help would be extended for VCU Saturday night when Northeastern took a five-set match 3-2 over George Mason to help the Rams finish tied for fourth in the CAA with the Patriots. Thanks to a mid-October 3-2 upset over George Mason, VCU claimed the fourth seed in the CAA Tournament, destined to face No. 1-seeded Delaware on Saturday.
The Rams will look for a different result after being shutout in both matches against the Blue Hens so far this season.
“We hope to be more prepared,” Finley said. “We’ve worked on a lot of things that have hurt us, and we’ve looked at how teams have attacked us and what has been successful for us.”
Prior to the start of the CAA tournament, VCU will have a chance to prepare in matches against Hampton and Albany (N.Y.) in the coming week.
“I’m glad we have a game on Tuesday because I think we can work on some things that didn’t go well here,” Finley said. “I think we had good enough ball control and good enough passing to be successful.”