Volleyball off to an impressive undefeated start
Morgan Douglas – Sports Editor
Owls volleyball could not have asked for a better start to their season after having last year’s season taken away. The lady Owls are at a perfect 4-0 to begin the 2021 season.
Saturday, they defeated both the Bloomfield College Bears and the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights in the Pelz Gym, winning all six sets across the two games.
“We’re super confident,” Junior Hitter Gabriela Gaibur said. “I knew that we were going to come out here and kill it. We’ve been working so hard. We have so many talented players, all we had to do was just mesh it all together and that’s exactly what we did here.”
Gaibur recorded a
double-double in the first game against Bloomfield, notching 13 kills and 12 digs on the stat sheet, and was a key contributor in game two against Saint Rose, with 10 digs and seven kills.
The university went through Bloomfield in three sets without much of a threat from the opposition, with Bloomfield’s closest set coming in the first when they lost 25-20. Through the first two sets against Saint Rose, it appeared to be the same, winning the first two 25-19 and 25-18 respectively. Then came the third set. Midway through with the Owls down 13-10, coach Lisa Barbaro called timeout.
“It was really about just staying within ourselves,” Coach Barbaro said. “Taking a deep breath, communicating, relaxing. Really, it’s just that, and sometimes we get in our own heads, so it was just a reset and a re-focus.”
It worked. The Owls went on a 7-2 run out of the timeout to put themselves in a good position late in the third set.
A third set which saw as many lead changes, six, as the first two sets combined. There were 15 tie scores during the third set, including a tie at 25.
At this point, the gym was rocking, and the Owls were able to outlast Saint Rose in a close one, 27-25. It was the kind of signature win to mark a resilient team.
“Those are the moments that prepare you for championships and to be great, it’s being able to execute in tough situations,” Coach Barbaro said. “The more opportunities we get to do that and the more we end up on the winning side of that I feel very confident that we’re taking big steps forward to reaching our long-term goals.”
The energy in the gym during the waning moments of the third set was palpable. The pressure was on the Owls, and they responded. After the victory, the audience was able to release all the pent up energy they had been holding in during those tense last moments.
“It was like a million pounds off your shoulders,” Gaibur said. “Games like that are probably the best part. The excitement of it. They’re a really good team, Saint Rose. It was a huge relief, but I knew we could do it.”
The Owls next take the court on Tuesday, against Nyack College at 6:30 p.m. in Pelz Gym. In the meantime, the team will continue to work on any areas of their game they feel need improving.
“I still think we have a lot we can improve on as a team,” Middle blocker Erika Benson said, “We have been really trying to clean up the little things that really go a long way in our sport.”
Benson led the team during game two with eight kills. Other key contributors in game two included Gabriela Vazquez, Abigail Epstein, and Taylor Jones. Vazquez had seven kills. Epstein had five. Jones tallied double digit assists for her fourth straight game. An impressive feat for a first-year player. Even more impressive are the 68 assists she has amassed through just four games. Something an Owls volleyball player has not done since the 2018 season.
“We all worked really hard to get where we are right now, and we want to make the most of every
opportunity,” Benson said.
The university also began the 2019 campaign with a 4-0 start. They were able to push the win streak to six before suffering their first loss in the season. How far they can carry their early momentum this year remains to be seen.
Even after starting all three sets of the second game of a doubleheader, Gaibur was still pumped with adrenaline after playing a lot of winning volleyball.
“These past two days I think we did awesome, and I can’t wait for our future games,” Gaibur said. “We’re just going to kill it this season.”