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On The Wing: Volleyball’s amazing run to the MAAC Tournament

blog by The Canisius Griffin  • 

Less than a month prior to the Canisius College girls volleyball team clinching the fourth seed in this year’s MAAC tournament, all hope had seemingly been lost.

The Griffs were coming off of three consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference losses and sported a less-than-desirable 4-8 record in conference play. Six games – all in-conference – remained on their regular season schedule. Only two were at home. For Canisius to make the playoffs in 2011, the women would have to win all of them…and even if they did, nothing was guaranteed.

In a season filled with struggles and inconsistency, head coach Cathy Hummel always stressed the importance of the mental aspect of the game. After all, she’s quick to remind you that volleyball is the most psychological sport. However, her team just could not put it all together. Sure, they would show stretches of strong, confident play, but maintaining that level seemed like an insurmountable climb.

It was at that point of desperation, however, that the 2011 Golden Griffs finally responded.

“We have nothing to lose, we just have to go into every game with that feeling consistently and just give everything up,” an optimistic Sam Good said prior to the six-game stretch. They may have had nothing to lose, but they certainly had something to play for. On the brink of elimination, the Griffs played their best volleyball of the season.

Canisius would take that attitude into a four-game win streak, rolling through straight-set victories over opponents Manhattan, St. Peter’s, Marist and Siena consecutively. With two games remaining – at Loyola and Rider – the Griffs were only one game out of fourth place, but Iona, Manhattan and Siena all stood in their way. Not only would Canisius have to win their final two games, they would need help from other teams.

The Griffs continued to dominate their final two opponents, not because of any one player, but rather due to a collection of strong team performances. Sam Good, junior Alyson Severyn and senior Janelle Davis all took home MAAC Player of the Week honors at some point in a stretch that included not only six straight victories to close out a season, but six consecutive sweeps of conference rivals. Sophomore Roxanne Hernandez stepped up and contributed some of her best play as well, recording a career high five blocks in consecutive matches. Senior Danielle Brawn continued to lead the team in kills for several of the victories, including her last game at the Koessler Athletic Center, and sophomore Emily Elek led the team with 11 kills in their post-season clinching win over Rider.

The Griffs’ amazing comeback was a group effort, and one that fans here at Canisius can and should be proud of. Each one of the girls stepped up, faced adversity and proved that they were who they thought they were: winners.

Saturday, the team begins its run at the MAAC title against No. 1 seed and arch-rival Niagara. Last time the Griffs faced the Purple Eagles, they played tightly in stretches with their opponent, but ultimately, it was inconsistency that led to their downfall. However, it seems that Canisius has transformed into a new team since that match. No longer are they a team that can be labeled as unpredictable, but rather they define the meaning of stability.

It has been more than three weeks since the last time the team even lost a set. In a season of ups and downs, the Griffs are playing the best volleyball of their season at the right time. If anyone can take down Niagara, which lost only one conference match all season, Canisius just might be the team to do it.

By Jourdon LaBarber
The Griffin

TAGGED: canisius griffins, jourdon labarber, maac

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