Volleyball loses in first round of NCAA playoffs to end year

The women’s volleyball team ended their season with a 3-0 loss to Junatia College in the NCAA playoffs last Friday afternoon. The Tigers lost in the first round, going 25-15, 25-16 and 25-8.
“I think everyone had really great energy and fight,” said junior setter Maryn Swierc in an email. “There was never a point where I thought that we gave up. We hung together as a team no matter what had happened on the court.  It’s difficult to do that when you aren’t winning.”

Swierc led the team with 16 assists and seven digs, while sophomore outside hitter Layne Hubbard contributed with six kills and three digs. Junior middle blocker Kelsey Daniel had five kills, two services aces and two blocks, sophomore defensive specialist Mia Mineghino had nine digs and senior libero Meredith Erwin had four digs.

“It was just a rough weekend,” said sophomore Erin Cusenbary. “I think it was because we were nervous and had never been on that national stage before. Being in such a huge game was overwhelming, and we got into our own heads too much.”

This marks the first time Trinity made it to the NCAA Playoffs since 2009, where they lost to Juniata College in the quarterfinals. Erwin was the only current player to have played on the 2009 team.

“I think the combination of the fact that we had not been there and that we did not have quite the strong leadership that we needed with multiple seniors starting on the floor just killed us,” said head coach Julie Jenkins. “Typically when you have a number of seniors starting and they’ve been there before, you have that strong leadership that helps with the pressure of playoffs.”

The Tigers will pick back up in the spring with five weeks of practice, followed by a tournament at the end. Despite Friday’s loss, hopes remain high for Trinity’s fall 2013 season. For the first time in almost eight years, the Tigers have only one starting senior graduating.

“Erwin is going to be a really big position to fill, she’s a huge part of our team,” Jenkins said. “But we are only graduating one starter and we’re going to have everyone back and we have not had that in seven or eight years. We definitely have a lot of talent, and the future looks bright.”

For their performances this season, Hubbard and Erwin received First Team All-Region honors, while Swierc received Honorable Mention recognition from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Hubbard led the team this season with 398 kills and 450 digs, Erwin recorded 491 digs and 41 service aces and Swierc contributed with 695 assists on the season.

“I feel like we had a growing season,” Hubbard said. “We learned a lot and hopefully next year things will come together for us sooner. Our 2013 season will definitely end differently.”