Bearcats advance in CUNYAC play despite disappointing Invite

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Despite a losing effort as host of The Baruch Invite, the Bearcats shined in a three set sweep of Brooklyn College in CUNYAC play.

The Baruch Invite is an annual tri-match competition where the women’s volleyball team competes against two elite programs at the college’s Athletics and Recreation Center, with New York University always being the marquee matchup.

Both the NYU Violets and the Seahawks of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, sat near the top of their respective conferences entering the event. Although their matches ended in straight set defeats, co-captain Marisa Bou explained why the Bearcats tend to schedule tough teams. “Our competition is fierce—not even really in the CUNYAC—but there are a lot of good teams so our coach really loads up our schedule with competitiveness so that we are prepared for CUNYAC. Our really big competition, obviously, is Hunter, so we have a lot of big games that we play like NYU...we use those teams to prepare us for our conference games, so those teams are generally a lot better than we are, but they are only supposed to make us better.”

Whether it was errant hits on the ball or miscommunication, the Bearcats committed a number of errors that negated comeback efforts in their 7-25, 6-25, 17-25 loss to the Seahawks. An early stretch saw the Bearcats fall behind 3-14 in the second set, but that did not dampen their spirit. Sophomore right side hitter Cindy Ciu made a diving save near the out-of-bounds marker to keep a rally going. Later on, she fooled the defense with a crafty shot that landed just over the net. Baruch held on firmly in the waning moments with an extended rally filled with lunging dives, blocks at the net and instinctive digs, although their efforts ultimately fell short.

Captains Alessandra Chavez and Akilah “Kiki” Meulens made their presence known as each side traded points to open the third set. Chavez hammered the ball to put the Bearcats on the board and Meulens leapt for a block to cut the deficit to one. The Seahawks, led by Alli Graf and Mia Griffiths, frustrated Baruch with heavy strikes and sound defense as they went on a 9-1 run. A service error gave the Bearcats an opportunity to respond as Meulens accounted for five of their six unanswered points.

Meulens unleashed a ferocious roar after each point scored as well as when she was subbed out of the game. She felt the need to yell because, “a lot of times our energy goes down so it feels like if one or two of us—especially if the captains of the team are loud and energetic and stuff—it brings the energy of the team up. We play a better game when our energy and confidence are up so I try to make sure the energy is up at all times.” Her teammates came through; Chavez and freshman Yijia Cai combined for a block at the net and Cai displayed quick reflexes with three consecutive digs. The Bearcats’ valiant effort in the final set carried over into their match against the Violets.

Setter Stephanie Cornwell and Bou, who plays libero, kept the team in formation throughout the match. The libero position is a defensive specialist and according to Bou, “runs the whole back row of the court. I am the brain of the court in addition to the center. It is a very difficult position to play just because you are controlling every aspect ... even the plays we are going to run so I can tell the hitter where they are going to hit the ball, I can tell the setter where we should be putting the ball. Even being a captain, I run the court—in addition to the setter of course.”

Caroline Rapp and Rayne Ellis smashed back-to-back kills for the Violets to put the Bearcats down at the end of the first set.

Chavez served up an ace and Leslie Chen racked up a kill to put Baruch up 5-2 at the start of the second set. When asked about their fast start, Meulens answered, “we went in [the locker room], we talked about it after the first set and we saw that we could do it. [Entering] the second set, we knew we had to communicate more and again, play with energy and confidence and so I think that it translated onto the court.” Freshman Julia Deutschmann provided a spark with a devastating kill to bring the match within one. But Rapp and Ellis overpowered the Bearcats with 12 and nine kills, respectively.

Perhaps Bou’s ideology of playing stronger teams in order to prepare for CUNYAC competition merits some truth, as the Bearcats rolled past Brooklyn College on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The Bearcats took down the Bulldogs in straight sets, 25-7, 25-6, 25-17. Muelens shined with 11 of the team’s 23 kills, with Stephanie Cornwell joining in the spotlight with 20 assists. Baruch now boasts a 3-1 CUNYAC record, right in the shadow of the rival Hunter College Hawks.

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