The Lafayette volleyball team wrapped up their 2018 season last weekend with a 3-1 loss to Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. The team also lost to Navy on Thursday, Nov. 8 in straight sets, 3-0, in their final home match of the year. The Leopards finish their season 5-23 overall and 0-16 in Patriot League play.
“Even though our record doesn’t really show it, we really did improve a lot from last year in terms of our Patriot League play,” junior captain Katrina Ruggiero said.
Against the Midshipmen, the team dropped the match in straight sets, losing 25-16, 25-21, and 25-14. Freshman outside hitter Leanna Deegan continued her hot streak with eight kills and two digs, while Ruggiero contributed seven kills and 10 digs.
Freshman outside hitter Grace Tulevech built on her strong season with seven kills, four digs, and two blocks.
Against Holy Cross, the Leopards lost the first set but were able to come back to win the second set. Their comeback efforts fell short in the final two sets of the game, and the Crusaders took the win.
“I think in our last few games, our fight was tremendous,” Ruggiero said. “Especially against Holy Cross, we were really gritty. We have never fought so hard and so well as a team, it was a great way to end the season. I wish we had figured that out sooner, but it was a strong way to end with everybody giving their all.”
“Each [player] did her part and worked really hard,” Ruggiero added. “We’re constantly competing for spots, nobody is guaranteed a spot.”
On the 2018 roster, eight of the 16 players were freshmen. According to Ruggiero, the young players made a big impact on the team.
“With such a young team, we really wanted to be able to come together as a unit and work on progressing,” Ruggiero said. “Leanna Deegan was Patriot League Rookie of the Week, and she made a Patriot League kill record with 34 kills against Bucknell. She’s a really strong player and contributed a lot for us.”
“Grace [Tulevech] has also been a go-to [player] for us. She plays both in the front row and the back row,” Ruggiero added.
With no graduating seniors and a strong, young group, the team is looking forward to what future seasons hold. As of now, five more players are committed to joining the team in the fall.
“We have this two year plan because we don’t have any seniors this year, and we want to progress even more next year,” Ruggiero said. “I think the most important aspect of our team right now is how driven each player is.”
According to Ruggiero, the team still has a lot of room to improve for next season.
“I think the lack of experience was tough for us,” Ruggiero said. “In the last couple points in a game, you see the more experienced teams get into a rhythm but we struggled to find that rhythm. Especially early on in the season, we were struggling to find ourselves and figure out our own game.”
Now that the 2018 season is over, the team will focus on building strength and skills for the 2019 season. Ruggiero said the team’s practice schedule will get more intense during the offseason.
“I’m excited to see how the team continues to progress,” Ruggiero said. “We had a unified goal in mind that we all worked really hard towards. Each practice, [everyone] came in with a good mindset and ready to work hard. I think we have so much potential and that we really have a chance next year to make a name for ourselves in the Patriot League and change the aura about our team.”