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Colby women’s volleyball suffers heartbreaking defeat to Maine Maritime Academy

After a scorching 6–0 start to their campaign, the Mules women’s volleyball team suffered its first loss of the season to the 9–0 Mariners.

Though a tough start for the Mules left them trailing 6–1, a couple massive hits by outside hitter LJ Grant `26 revitalized the energy on and off the court. A big block out of the middle by Hannah Wyllie `24 squared the game up at eight apiece. After a brief surge by the Mules’ offense, the Mariners started to pull away. With a score of 20–16 favoring Maine Maritime Academy, the Colby coaching staff called the first timeout of the set. Maine Maritme’s relentless attack and stubborn defense, however, was enough to hold Colby at bay, as the Mariners secured the first set with a 25–20 victory.

Colby’s front line started well to open the second set, securing a quick kill and block. An early rally came to an end after a beautiful roll shot by outside hitter Emma Davis `26. The Mules took a 5–3 lead. Despite the positive start, however, Maine Maritime came storming back. A combination of miscommunication and individual errors by the Mules contributed to the Mariners getting back into the game. Colby’s coaching staff called its second timeout of the set. The Mules started to get into a groove following the timeout, as a couple Colby hitters secured of points and some resilient defensive efforts, slowed the Mariners offense. A service ace by Wyllie cut the Mariners lead to two points at 20–18, and was met by a massive cheer from the Colby crowd. Colby finally managed to level the score at 21 apiece following a stuff block by Sydney Bopp `26. A couple clutch kills by Grant along with a pair of serving aces completed the Mules’ comeback at 25–22 and leveled the two opponents at one set each.

Entering a critical third set, the Mules and the Mariners exchanged points early. Colby’s offense consisted primarily of sets to the outside — to hitters Grant and Davis — as well as several slide plays for middle blockers Natalie Bumpus `23 and Wyllie. Although Colby’s offense appeared a bit more fluid in the third set, defensive mistakes and miscommunication continued to plague their back line. Maine Maritime Academy saw the ball hit the Colby side of the floor through various attacks, including a host of tips and roll shots.

After Maine Maritime locked the two teams at 19, Colby called timeout again. The Mariners kept their foot on the gas following the timeout, getting back-to-back aces and forcing the Mules to call their second and final timeout of the set. Another clutch hit by Grant narrowed the Marriner lead to 22–20. However, the Mules struggled to get effective attacks to close the gap as the Mariners comfortably closed the set at 25–20, taking a 2–1 set lead.

Wyllie spoke on the individual errors that contributed to the Mules’ first loss of the season:

“The thing we talked about most after the game was mental toughness. We made a lot of controllable mistakes in that game, and the more we got down, the more we made mistakes. We struggled to control the little things which had been bringing us success in our earlier games.”

The fourth set was a must-win for the Mules. The two sides once again opened the set exchanging points, one side never pulling away from the other. Wyllie got a kill off another slide, greeted by a resounding cheer from the crowd. Colby forced Maine Maritime to call an early timeout and jumped to a 15–11 lead. However, a mixture of mistakes and misfortune continued to overshadow Colby’s success on the court. The Mules missed a few serves, allowing the Mariners to stay within striking distance and keep the pressure. Afterwards, a massive play went in favor of Maine Maritime Academy: the Mariners flung a free ball deep into Colby’s backcourt, leaving the Mules backline convinced the ball had soared out of bounds. The ball was close, but caught a piece of the Colby backline. The refs awarded the point to the Mariners, much to the displeasure of the Colby fans.

The Mules’ offense secured some crucial points to give them set point at 24–21. As it looked to everyone watching that the Mules were about to steal the fourth set, the Mariners came storming back. The Mariners offense got a tip to fall and capitalized on an overpass by Colby cutting the lead to 24–23. The Mariners once again got the point off a kill from their outside hitter, and they tied the game up at 24 apiece.

With the two sides locked, every point was critical in this win-by-two scenario. The Mariners got a stuff block on Colby and their hitters continued to find the gaps in the Colby backline. Maine Maritime Academy completed an unbelievable comeback, securing the fourth set 27–25 and crushing Colby’s perfect start to the 2022 season.

“We couldn’t finish that set because we were not in control and MMA was outworking us on every ball. As a team we discussed the importance of having a ‘fifth set mindset’ which means playing every ball like it is match point in the fifth set. We also talked about how important it is to lift each other up and support each other in stressful situations like that,” Wyllie said.

Despite the loss, Colby still boasts an impressive record, and the team still feels confident moving forward. With a wealth of young players, the team will grow more and more comfortable playing together as the season progresses.

“We are focused heading into our next games. We are not viewing this loss as a setback … our team has used this loss to find the things we need to work on going forward,” Wyllie said.

Colby responded to this past Tuesday’s loss against Maine Maritime with back-to-back wins this past weekend, 3–1 over Brandeis and 3–0 over conference rivals, the Bates Bobcats, improving their record to an impressive 8–1. The Mules will look to continue their two-game win streak on home court this Friday against Wesleyan.

~ Mason Groves `23


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