After an average 4-4 start of the season, the Baruch College women’s volleyball team looked to the Neumann Invitational to prove that the team was much better than its record. The trip to Aston, Pennsylvania could not have gone worse for the Lady Bearcats as they failed to win a single set across four matches.
Going against Moravian College, which finished fifth in the Landmark Conference last season, the Lady Bearcats fell 26-28, 14-25, 11-25 after a contested first set. The Bearcats were far less competitive in the second and third sets as Moravian limited mistakes and piled up 12 aces and eight blocks. Baruch totaled 18 errors, more than doubling the Greyhounds, in addition to an underwhelming three aces and just one block.
Freshman Stephanie Cornwell led the way with 20 assists as senior captains Akilah Meulens and Alessandra Chavez reached a record 15 kills combined. Fellow senior captain Marisa Bou shielded the court as she collected 12 digs.
A quick turnaround had the Bearcats squaring off against the Raptors of Rutgers University, the first match of a scheduled triple-header. Although the Bearcats prevailed in a five-set nail-biter against Rutgers in their first meeting of the season, the Camden Raptors exacted revenge during their second go-around, by means of a three-set sweep. Early on, the two sides were neck-and-neck in hitting percentage, digs and aces. Despite Meulens and Chavez’s roles as vanguards of the Bearcats’ offense, the Raptors stole the first set 26-28, putting the Bearcats down early.
Inconsistency plagued the team in the final two sets as the Bearcats fell 24-26, 17-25. Hitting percentage was particularly strong in the second set, yet the Bearcats failed to capitalize on their improved play.
Next on the docket was the formidable Catholic University of America Cardinals, which entered the match with a 9-3 record. The size of the Cardinals’ starting lineup automatically put them at a disadvantage; their roster has seven players 5-foot-10 or taller while the Bearcats only have one—freshman Julia Deutschmann. Surprisingly, the Cardinals’ side hitters only had two blocks apiece and Baruch collected five more digs than CUA. However, it was Baruch’s six errors and 27 total attempts that accounted for the three-set defeat, 14-25, 10-25, 17-25.
Baruch played their final match of the invitational against the host team, the Neumann University Knights. The home team took command of the match in the first set with a score of 15-25 and a total of 13 kills to six errors while the Bearcats had a 5-5 split in those statistics, netting a zero hitting percentage.
It was a deja vu for the Bearcats as they tested the Knights in the second set, out-hitting them 18.5 percent to 9.7 percent. Even though all 13 aces were delivered by the Knights, the Bearcats held their own to rally in the third set before falling 21-25.
This year’s performance mirrored last year’s invitational, when the Bearcats won just one set against the Raptors out of four matches. A tough opening schedule could explain the team’s early season struggles. Five of their 8 losses have come against teams with winning records.
Despite their shaky start, Baruch faithfuls certainly should not give up on the season; the Bearcats are currently 2-0 in conference play, second only to rivals and defending champions, the Hunter College Hawks, in CUNY Athletic Conference standings. Despite being 6-7 overall and 3-0 in conference play, all but one of the Hawks’ wins have come against sub-.500 teams. Last year, the Bearcats were dominant in the CUNYAC, finishing undefeated in conference play and making a bid for the tournament championship.
Cornwell was named CUNYAC Rookie of the Week for her stellar assists and gritty digs. This is her third time receiving the award in as many weeks and she leads the conference with 6.83 assists per set. As the primary setter on a postseason contender, Cornwell has the weight of the school on her shoulders, but she does not have to bear it alone. Eight of the 12 roster spots feature sophomores and freshmen, thus providing hope for the future. With the trident of senior captains steering the ship, the Bearcats hope for a chance at redemption as the season progresses.
Upcoming games pit Baruch against the Brooklyn College Bulldogs and William Paterson University Pioneers. The Bulldogs lead the CUNYAC in average blocks and digs per set, though their 1-9 record indicates a negative correlation to winning matches. Meanwhile, the Pioneers boast a 7-2 record and rank in the top two teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference in hitting percentage, assists and kills.
Both road games come on the heels of the Baruch Invite, an annual competition hosted in the school’s Athletics and Recreation Center. The marquee event sends the NYU Bobcats into the Bearcats den in a battle for bragging rights.