Chestnut Hill College always gets elevation and emotion from junior outside hitter Alex DePalma. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Host Chestnut Hill College didn’t get blown out in any set of last Wednesday’s conference volleyball match with Holy Family College, but the Griffins didn’t win any of them either, and went down to the visiting Tigers, 25-19, 25-20, 25-17.

Both squads have struggled at times this fall, with last week’s win bringing Holy Family up to the .500 level in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (4-4) and to 6-13 overall, while CHC was 2-5, 6-12 following the contest.

The Griffins edged ahead 4-1 in the opening set on Wednesday, but Holy Family regrouped for a decisive rally, putting 11 of the next 12 points on its side of the scoreboard. The Griffins actually outpointed their guests, 14-13, the rest of the way, but could not make significant inroads into the Tigers’ lead and fell, 25-19. CHC had hung in for much of the set, but was unable to uncover from its early letdown.

“We have a lot of freshmen and a lot of new players on the court, and we’re still working on gelling,” explained Griffins coach Kim Feeny. “There’s not a psychological understanding of each other on the court yet, and that makes it more difficult to respond well in a pressure situation. We have people acting more as individuals sometimes.”

Senior middle hitter Cassie Benson suffered a rotator cuff injury before the season even began, and the two-time co-captain can only lend support from the sideline.

“Lacking a senior on the court, in general, takes away a little bit of that spark,” Feeny observed.

In the second set last Tuesday, the Griffins once again gave almost as good as they got against Holy Family, only trailing by three points late in the set at 21-18. Still, the Tigers were able to seal the deal, 25-20.

The visitors had two players who ended the evening with double-digit kills (14 apiece), while Chestnut Hill was led by freshman Rachel Biro, with nine (and one block and one block assist), and by junior co-captain Alex DePalma, with eight (and two block assists).

“It’s not simply a question of lack of kills; it also involves how the passing is and how the setting is,” Feeny commented. “We weren’t putting the ball up enough to give the hitters the opportunity. Right now I feel our technical game is fine. What we’re working on is the mental aspect, and the communication, something that a young team needs to develop.”

After going up 2-0, Holy Family got off to a 5-1 start in the third set. A scoring tip and a block by sophomore Katie Schock and kills by Biro and junior Mary Markowski (five kills, four block assists) helped the Griffins close the gap to two points at 10-12. That’s as close as they got, though, and eventually five consecutive points allowed the Tigers to close out the match with a 25-17 win in the final round.

Among the two conference contests on CHC’s schedule this week is a home match with Georgian Court University, one of the Griffins’ chief rivals in the battle for a spot in the CACC tournament.