On Friday, Nov. 4, the Colby volleyball team traveled down to Middletown to take on the tournament hosts and top-seeded Wesleyan Cardinals. Colby’s appearance in the NESCAC tournament this season snapped a seven-year drought of missing the playoffs.
The Mules started the season on fire, winning their first six games and getting some massive victories over in-state rivals Bates and Bowdoin. The victories over Bowdoin on Sept.17 and again on Oct. 21 were especially significant as Colby conquered their rivals for the first time since 2005. A combination of early season wins and achievements in the conference alerted the NESCAC that this was not the same Colby team as years past. Player Natalie Bumpus `23 spoke on the Mules’ successes this season:
“This season is the best I’ve had at Colby. We’ve broken records and been regionally ranked for the first time in fifteen years. The team itself is also the most tight-knit group I’ve played with in my time here,” she said.
Rolling into the tournament boasting a 14–8 record, Colby knew they had their work cut out for them in their upcoming match against the Cardinals. The Cardinals were dominant this season, 22–2 against all opponents and 9–1 in the conference. On Sept. 30, Wesleyan defeated the Mules three sets to one, setting up a thrilling rematch between the two opponents. Despite the earlier loss against Wesleyan and the dominance that the Cardinals demonstrated throughout the season, the Mules felt they were well-matched to take on the No.1 seed.
The Mules gave everything they had in their matchup against the Cardinals yet fell just short in a heartbreaking 1–3 loss in the first round of the tournament (20–25, 19–25, 25–18, 21–25). Each set was very close, with the biggest margin of victory only being seven points for either side. Hitting percentages were extremely close between the two opponents as well, as Colby ended with a hitting percentage of .186 while Wesleyan hit only slightly higher at .190.
The Cardinals enjoyed much more success than the Mules on the blocking and serving fronts, allowing them to pull away in the first, second, and fourth sets. The Mules were only able to serve two aces throughout the match, while Wesleyan managed to secure seven. Additionally, Wesleyan’s fourteen blocks to Colby’s six played a massive role in the Cardinals’ success.
Standout performers on the attacking end included outside hitters Emma Davis `26 and LJ Grant `26 who combined for twenty-eight kills, just over half of Colby’s total kills on the night. Sydney Bopp `26 also once played a major role in again the Mules offense as she recorded eight kills, two blocks, and one ace.
On the defensive end, libero Bella Schumacher `25 and defensive specialist Alli McKenney `26 combined for a whopping thirty-seven digs on the night, both playing a massive role in limiting the success of the Cardinals’ hitters.
Despite the crushing end to the season, Colby Volleyball is set up well for the next few years. Losing only two seniors this season, the team will have many familiar faces going forward. Additionally, with such a young roster comprising nine first-years and two sophomores, the Mules will continue to grow and improve over the next couple of years.
Friday’s matchup marked Bumpus’s final game for the Mules after four years in the program. Bumpus reflected on her time as a member of Women’s Volleyball and added that the future is bright for the team looking ahead to next season.
“I’m sad to see my senior season close, especially after my last season being the best; however, I’m so excited to see what the future holds for CVB and am so grateful for my wonderful coaches and teammates,” she said.
The Mules will be back in action next fall and will look to build upon the remarkable achievements this team has made throughout the 2022 season.
~ Mason Groves `23