In last weekend’s Sommer Center Spiketacular at Bluffton University, the Ladies volleyball team came away with two more wins, but also suffered two hard losses. Kenyon (6-3; NCAC 0-0) had an impressive start with victories against Geneva College (3-5; Beaver Falls, Pa.) and Thomas More College (3-6; Crestview Hills, Ky.). The Ladies lost 1-3 to host team Bluffton University (6-3; Bluffton, Ohio) but put up a strong performance, losing two of their sets by only two points. They then fell to perennial Division III powerhouse Ohio Northern University (7-1; Ada, Ohio) three sets to none.
In the first game of the tournament against Geneva, Delaney Swanson ’19 led Kenyon’s offense with a total of 21 kills in four sets. Swanson is coming off a terrific first-year season in which she led the team with 333 kills, over 100 kills more than any other teammate.
“We were just mentally prepared,” she said of the game against Geneva. “We were ready to establish ourselves as a team.”
Kenyon stayed strong against Thomas More, which finished last season with a 26-5 record. Jensen Shurbert ’18 has seen a lot of improvement in her team’s ability to remain consistent. “Having two games in the same day is exhausting mentally and physically,” she said. “So the fact that we were able to keep that steady really helped out.”
Shurbert provided 40 assists, which pushed her to eighth in total assists in Kenyon volleyball history. Swanson again led the Ladies with 18 kills.
The team attributes much of their early season success to an improving group of young returners. Three sophomores — Swanson, Schuyler Stupica and Alexi Donnelly — have started for the Ladies since the season opened. “We’re all a year older and more experienced,” Swanson said of her class.
Stupica agrees. “One year of maturity has really strengthened what we do on the court,” she said. Stupica also sees a lot of potential in the freshman, especially Maleah Miller ’20 and Mackenzie Bruzzio ’20, who have found starting roles on the young team. “They’ve filled a lot of the gaps in our team,” she said.
Sunday proved much tougher for the Ladies. They began with an emotional and close loss to Bluffton. After splitting the first two sets, Kenyon was unable to catch up on the third set, getting within one point three different times; the team ended up blowing a 24-19 lead in the fourth set.
The team tallied 26 errors against Bluffton, unable to maintain the steady mentality that had propelled them through the first two games. “We really hurt ourselves more than they beat us,” Swanson said. But Stupica saw promise in her team’s ability to keep that game close.
“They’re a nationally-ranked team,” Stupica said. “The fact that we were able to be that competitive with them is a good sign going forward.”
Going into the last game, the Ladies were fatigued, and both Shurbert and Swanson sat out with injuries. Bruzzio tried to maintain a positive attitude facing one of the strongest teams in the tournament.
“When you’re missing two key players, you just have to have fun with it and roll with the punches,” she said.
Although the Ladies did not put up much of a fight in their last game, they are excited about what they accomplished over the weekend. “I think teams are definitely starting to notice us,” Miller said. Bruzzio added, “Kenyon volleyball is on its way up.”
As for injuries, Shurbert plans on sitting out a few practices but said she is “definitely coming back to fight hard this weekend.” Swanson is also optimistic about her ability to play this Friday and Saturday, when Kenyon hosts the Kenyon College Invitational. The Ladies play their first game of the invitational on Friday at 6 p.m., facing off against Earlham College (3-6; Richmond, Ind.).