Langston Hood, Senior Sports Writer
The Fighting Scots volleyball team faced a steep challenge last Saturday, as they visited Springfield, Ohio to take on the Wittenberg University Tigers in a rematch of last year’s NCAC championship battle in which the Tigers swept the Scots. The off-season was not kind to Wooster, as many of the players that helped the team reach last year’s heights graduated last spring. Wittenberg, on the other hand, continues to maintain their dominance, and the storied program that boasts 25 NCAC championships seems eager to improve on that number. So far this season, the Tigers have only dropped 11 sets in their 14 matches, vaulting them to eighth in the nation in last week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) rankings.
Wooster came out of the gate swinging, as they responded to Wittenberg’s early 2-0 advantage with a three point run of their own, gaining a 3-2 lead. The game took on a back-and-forth pattern, as the Scots and Tigers traded punches until a Wittenberg run took the score from 10-8 in their favor to a commanding 18-8 lead over Wooster. A number of errors from Wooster fueled this run and allowed the Tigers to take control of the first set.
The Scots clawed their way back to within six points of Wittenberg thanks to a block from the rangy Caroline Dillard ’24, who recounted some of the difficulties that come with playing top teams like Wittenberg. “I think it is hard playing against teams that are physically a lot bigger,” said Dillard. “It’s physically and mentally tough working around those obstacles.” The Tigers gave up one more point to the Scots before running away with the first set 25-15.
Wittenberg found another level in the second set, as they quickly reversed Wooster’s 1-0 lead to take a 5-1 lead over the Fighting Scots, due to Wooster errors and dominant play from outside hitter Katie Hiestand ’24, who led the match in kills with an emphatic 18. Wooster then took two points back thanks to a Wittenberg error and a block from Tamara Turner ’25.
Wittenberg responded with another 4-0 run, which was brought to a stop with another kill from Hayley Nash ’23, who amassed four kills in the second set. But the Tigers would not be stopped, as they ran away with the set, taking a 14-6 lead and eventually winning 25-16.
Wooster appeared to be out of steam as the Tigers began the third set by taking a 3-0 lead, which soon stretched to 15-4. The Scots got their shots in as Emily Gail ’23 recorded a kill to make it 9-4, but the Tigers responded with a six-point run that seemed insurmountable. Wittenberg took control of the match with a strong third set that ended 25-9 in favor of the Tigers.
Although the game did not end in the Scots’ favor, one individual accolade stood out. Sydney Fitzcharles ’23 climbed into historic territory in the match’s closing stages, recording her 1,141st dig, which places her in a tie for 10th place with Wooster Association Hall of Fame member Carrie Zuro ’97 for most digs in program history. If Fitzcharles continues at her current pace she may find herself even higher on the list.
Fitzcharles emphasized Dillard’s earlier point about larger teams. “When we play powerhouse teams, they are often physically taller and bigger than us,” she said. “As a team, we need to work on adjusting in-game strategies and adapt to beat opposing teams based on what they are giving us.”
The Fighting Scots will look to avenge themselves this weekend as Denison awaits in what should be an exciting NCAC matchup. Nash is optimistic about this weekend’s matchup, saying that “One thing I am looking forward to leading up to the Denison game is preparing both physically and mentally as a team.” Nash continued by sharing the brief history behind the team’s growing feud, “We know Denison will come in strong since we beat them in the conference tournament last year.” Gail is eager to welcome the Big Red into Timken, “I’m looking forward to working hard in practice this week with the excitement to get to play another competitive team this weekend.”
Come support your Fighting Scots Saturday, Oct. 1st at 1 p.m. as they welcome Denison to Timken Gymnasium.