Bearcats seek revenge after disappointing finish to last season

Carrie Thomas, the head coach of Baruch College’s women’s volleyball team, showed that she was more than capable of leading the Bearcats after guiding the team to its sixth consecutive CUNYAC finals appearance in 2014. Thomas took over the position last March and brought with her a wealth of coaching experience. Despite finishing one game shy of a perfect conference record, the Bearcats were unable to defend their CUNYAC title against the Hunter College Hawks.

The Hawks were the only conference team to defeat the Bearcats in the regular season and they were not afraid to take it all the way when the two teams met again. In their initial matchup, the Hawks swept the Bearcats, taking all three sets. Though during the finals, the Bearcats adjusted their strategy to avoid a similar blowout. With the season on the line, the Bearcats played with sharpness and intensity through the first four sets, forcing a pivotal fifth.

Unfortunately, the Bearcats finished their hard-fought season in a 9-15 loss in the final set. With less than two weeks remaining before their first match of the season, the Bearcats must prove that they are ready to play now more than ever.

The team will kick off Baruch’s 2015-16 athletic year with two consecutive home games at the Athletic & Recreation Center. The Bearcats will first host the Ospreys of Richard Stockton College on Sept. 1, then the St. Joseph’s College Golden Eagles on the following day. Their matchup against the Ospreys will be a rematch from last year’s loss in the Stockton tri-match. This time around the Bearcats will have home-court advantage.

The Bearcats were struggling on both sides of the court the last time the two teams faced each other. On the offensive side of the ball, Akilah Meulens led the team with a .333 hitting percentage and tallied eight of the team’s 25 kills. Amy Sung led the team on the defensive end and recorded 13 digs in the losing effort. With the opportunity to face such a dominating opponent in the season opener, the Bearcats will need to muster all of their teamwork and strength to avenge their loss.

Following their home games, the team will have a couple of days to rest before they travel to Center Valley, Pennsylvania, to compete in the Desales Invitational. They will play against Rutgers University-Camden, Washington College, Gwynedd Mercy University and Desales University in the meet. The Bearcats will also travel to Montclair, New Jersey, for the Montclair State University tri-match. In the same weekend, Baruch will play against its first conference opponent, Lehman College Lightning. The match against the Lightning will be the first of a doubleheader that includes a match against the Bloodhounds of John Jay College.

Despite losing some key performers in seniors Michelle Stommes and Catherine Cespedes, the Bearcats’ season looks secure with several returning starters who will be prepared to take on the next leadership role. Sung, who will be entering her fourth year on the team, achieved great success in her first three years. She is a two-time CUNYAC Libero of the Year recipient and was named ECAC Metro Co-Libero of the week in October 2014.

Sung’s consistent defensive performance makes her presence felt on the court, and it plays a big role in the outcome of the game. She recorded a career high of 37 digs in a road match against the Brooklyn College Bulldogs. Other notable players include Crystle Dela Cruz and McKenzie Davidson. Dela Cruz and Davidson will both enter their fourth years on the team and both led the Bearcats last season in total kills and total assists, respectively. Dela Cruz had an outstanding season with 950 assists and 57 service aces. Davidson had a commendable season as well with 257 kills and 37 service aces. With a total of 821 career kills, Davidson currently holds fourth place in Baruch women’s volleyball history.

“I am very excited about our competitive schedule this season,” said coach Thomas. “We are playing some of the top schools in our region and with our returning talent, along with the talented newcomers, I can’t wait to get started.”

As the offseason comes to an end and final preparations are underway, Baruch students count down the final days to the start of the season. The expectations will be higher and the competition will be tougher than ever before. The Bearcats will need to have a strong start to avoid playing catch-up in the final stretch of the season. If Baruch can set the tone early and take advantage of its non-conference matchups, the team will be in great shape for the finals.