A huge performance from sophomore outside hitter Carly Waterman led the Montclair State University women’s volleyball team to defeat a tough U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) 3-1 in front of a packed house at Panzer Athletic Center.
The victory on Saturday, Sept. 7, pushed the Red Hawks to a 3-1 record this season, preceding a same-day match against Stevens Institute of Technology later in the day.
Although the final set score may have appeared to be an easy victory for the Red Hawks, this was easily the toughest challenge the Red Hawks have faced in the early part of this season.
“Going into this matchup, we told the girls that this was a legit team,” Eddie Stawinski, head coach for the Red Hawks, said. “They play good defense and do some nice things on the other side of the ball.”
However, the first set showcased why the Red Hawks are such a dangerous team when in sync. Converting off several attacking errors by the USMMA, the Red Hawks would start off the set with an early 12-5 lead.
The Red Hawks were extremely effective with their blocking, converting the blocks into points, and ended up finishing the set with a commanding 25-18 victory.
USMMA would not go down quietly, storming out of the second set with a 10-3 lead, as they committed fewer errors and made several more kills in this set. However, a great performance by Waterman would help the Red Hawks storm back to make it a 21-20 game late in the set. Despite Waterman’s six kills in the set, USMMA would fend off a late comeback to win the set 25-23, tying the game at 1-1.
The Red Hawks were less effective at getting kills in this set as the team struggled early on, and ultimately picking up the momentum too late.
“I think our passing and blocking definitely broke down at times throughout the last three sets,” Stawinski said.
These obstacles would continue for the Red Hawks as they struggled to limit the USMMA’s powerful hitters to kills, resulting in being down 2-7 early in the set. However, a huge kill by sophomore middle blocker Victoria Tennon brought the crowd to their feet as the Red Hawks would go on an 11-3 run to make it a 13-10 Montclair State lead. The Red Hawks would hang on to win the set 25-20.
The fourth and final set was filled with some great volleyball play by both teams. USMMA once again grabbed an early lead in the game, and at one point had stretched their lead 20-15 late in the last set. However, the Red Hawks resiliency would storm back, capitalizing off several key errors by USMMA to tie the game 22-22, which was capped off by a huge kill by senior middle blocker Catlin Lange.
The Red Hawks’ ability to stay focused and calm through adversity was a big reason why they were able to come back in the third and fourth sets.
“In the second set we let our energy get the best of us,” Waterman said. “But later in the match, we did a great job of staying calm and sticking to our game and not letting our emotions get the best of us.”
Lange would once again come up big as she would score the game-winning kill off of a beautiful pass from junior outside hitter Siyara Herbert. The Red Hawks would win 26-24, in what was an electrifying match from start to finish.
Throughout the game, multiple Red Hawks stepped up in huge ways. Waterman finished with 16 kills, along with 12 kills and five blocks for Lange. Several players, such as sophomore outside hitter Leah Higgins, came in throughout the game and were very effective for the Red Hawks. The depth of this team is arguably the biggest strength of this team.
“That’s one of the best things about our team this year is our depth,” Coach Stawinski said. “We are able to put a lot of our [bench players] in critical situations and they can step up and perform.”