|November 12, 2001|
Volleyball team ends record-setting season
SPRINGFIELD, MA-Judging by the smiles, the hugs and the high-fives, one would have guessed that Union's women's volleyball team had just won the ECAC North championship. In reality, however, the eighth-seeded Dutchwomen had just seen their season end with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the top-seeded, and host, Springfield Pride.
But don't tell second-year head coach Sandy Collins that her 2001 squad aren't champions.
"I couldn't be prouder of this group," said Collins, who guided the Dutchwomen to a 25-13 record and the best single-season standard for wins in a season (surpassing the previous mark of 24 set in 1994). "This team fought hard and pushed Springfield right to the edge. We accomplished a lot this year, we accomplished a lot in this tournament, and we accomplished a lot in regard to the future of this program."
Collins, who last year guided Union to an overall record of 18-14 and into the New York State Women's Collegiate Championship tournament (for the first time since 1996), led her Dutchwomen into this year's New York State event (where they finished ninth after being seeded 12th), and to a second-place finish in the Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association championship tournament. Their invitation to the ECAC tournament was the first in the history of the program, which dates back to 1975.
The Dutchwomen, who will graduate just one senior, four-year starter Melinda Colon (Passaic, NJ/Rutherford High School), certainly accomplished a great deal this season and set themselves up as a team to be dealt with starting with the 2002 campaign.
Nerves and the early loss of sophomore co-captain Sarah Pontius (Oneonta, NY/Oneonta) to an injury (the Dutchwomen's season assist leader--with an average of 8.8 per game--banged her head on bleachers after diving for the ball), saw Springfield easily take the first game, 30-13. However, the rest of the contest was a different story as Pontius returned to lead Union to a 30-26 victory in the second game of this best three-of-five series.
"Sarah has been the heart and soul of our team all year long," said Collins after the match. "Losing her so early in the first game, and some nervousness on our part, put them in control. Sarah's return for the rest of the match helped get our players back into their rhythm and I think we surprised Springfield with our ability to stay right with them."
Springfield, which came into the event with a 29-6 record, five seniors among their 14-player roster and disappointed that they were overlooked for the NCAA tournament, saw Union wrap up the second game victory when junior Corinn Jordan (New Hyde Park, NY/Herricks) convert a pass from Pontius for the 30-26 victory.
The Pride, which took the third contest, 30-24, led by 10, 26-16. Union rallied to within four points, 28-24, before Springfield put the game away.
Game four was an exciting affair that produced 13 ties, the last of which saw a block by freshman Susan Gestwick (Charlton, NY/Burnt Hills) knot the game at 29. Consecutive service points by Pontius gave Union a 27-25 advantage that broke the game's 11th tie, a 25-25 deadlock. Springfield tied the game at 27 and went up 29-27 before Gestwick's block. The Pride won the next point, and then the contest, 31-29, when a ball hit by the Dutchwomen was declared out of bounds by the line judge.
Pontius finished with 35 assists, Jordan had 26 kills and 18 digs, Gestwick contributed 15 digs and three blocks while Colon added 11 digs.