WVB: Colonels split homecoming games against Albright

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Women’s volleyball was able to split the matches against the Albrightb Lions on Homecoming Weekend, as they lost the first and won the second.

The Colonels were scheduled to play City College of New York in their second match today, but the game was rescheduled. The head coaches for both Wilkes and Albright decided to play two games against each other.

“We definitely knew there was a lot going on around campus, and a lot of hype around because of Homecoming, so we wanted to take that energy into the game today,” said junior opposite hitter Kelsey Carroll.

The Colonels got off to a very slow start in the first set and the Lions were quick to pounce. Albright capitalized on a few Wilkes errors and went on a big run to end the first set.

In the second set, the Colonels figured out the quick hitting Albright offense. Wilkes was poised to take the second set, as they were leading late. However, another Lions’ run allowed them to take the second set as well.

The third set went back and forth between the Colonels and Lions. Anytime it looked like the Colonels were going to get back into the game, Albright would come up with a momentum shifting block or kill. Albright would win the set and the match, as they were able to sweep Wilkes 3-0.

“I think coming into the game we thought it would be an easy win, and we were just cocky as a team,” said sophomore middle hitter Nicole Fitzpatrick. “I think our confidence and endurance in the first game was just not fully there.”

With just 30 minutes in between games, there was not much time to come up with a new plan of attack on how to defeat this Albright team. It looked like it would be another long game for the Colonels.

However, head coach Joseph Czopek and his coaching staff came up with a completely new and inexperienced lineup.

The lineup consisted of all underclassmen and Carroll. The junior normally plays as an opposite hitter, but this lineup had her playing all the way around the court.

“Myself and our two other coaches have been talking about it for about two weeks. It minimizes our substitutions, which has been a big problem,” said Czopek. “We designed this lineup to keep people on the court, help keep a little more consistency, and it worked because it generated offense.”

The new lineup had a few errors and miscommunications in the first set of the second match. It was their first time playing together as a unit. Albright once again went on a scoring run, but the Colonels answered back, in large part because of the play of Fitzpatrick.

“I did want to kill the ball every time, but I was just being big at the net,” said Fitzpatick. “On any overpass, I just wanted to slam it down. Being a hitter, you can just really impact the team by getting good kills and blocks.”

Fitzpatrick had a few kills and went on a huge serving run to help Wilkes fight back and win the first set.

The second set between the teams was back and forth and the Colonels led by just two. That was the closest the Lions would get in the set. The new lineup began to fire on all cylinders and went on a massive run of their own to close out the set to go up 2-0.

Wilkes was able to gel on the court with this new lineup on the court. The underclassmen were in their same roles, but the team relied on Carroll to be the key in this new system.

“It is definitely something that I am not used to,” said Carroll. “I think we adjusted well, and for never practicing it before, and going out there and doing it, I thought we played very well.”

Instead of being the normal go-to hitter that she usually is, Carroll had to play both front and back row during the game. She finished with six kills, six digs, a block and an ace for Wilkes.

The Colonels were not about to let the Lions have a chance of coming back in the match. They took an early lead and never let go as they won the final set 25-16 to sweep Albright in straight sets.

Wilkes looked like an unstoppable machine for the last set. Their defense was communicating and not letting any Albright hitters find space. Their offense was a thing of beauty as first-year setter Alexa Cassel and all of the Colonel hitters were clicking.

“It’s so awesome. We love to support each other, and when we get on big runs, we love to get hype and take their energy,” said Carroll.

The new lineup that Wilkes used was huge in allowing Wilkes to come away with one win on the day. The Colonels were dominant in the second match of the day, showing just how much this new rotation worked for the team.

“I thought the young girls stepped up really well,” said Czopek. “They did what they had to. I give the upperclassman credit for cheering and being supportive of them. They took some of their roles, but we are a team, and that is how we have to look at it.”