As the fall sports seasons come to an end and winter slowly starts to creep in, the women’s volleyball team can finally take some time to savor their experiences.
The team had a chance to host the NCAA regional tournament rounds this year in their own backyard at Stevenson University, giving them even more momentum heading into the tournament as they finished the regular season with an impressive 30-1 record (33-2 overall). This was the first time that Stevenson women’s volleyball was selected to host as a regional NCAA site.
With the top seed in the Middle Atlantic Conference tournament, Stevenson faced Alvernia University in the first round, held at Owings Mills, winning 3-0 and propelling the Mustangs into the championship game against second-seeded Arcadia University. The Mustangs were elated to gain their sixth consecutive MAC Commonwealth championship led by Most Valuable Player Lauren Weaver’s 15 kills as 15th-ranked Stevenson triumphed with a 3-1 win over the Knights.
In the national Division III tournament bracket of 64 teams, Stevenson University was the second seed in their region. Head coach Dave Trumbo said his message to his team was that to win the first-round match against the 7th- seeded Hunter College which would be huge. It would give them, he said, “a chance to advance further into the tournament.”
The Mustangs are no beginners when it comes to participating in postseason play. They participated in seven NCAA regional tournaments and have won six straight conference championships, never losing a match in their conference (50-0 since 2012). Entering the NCAA tournament as the No. 2 seed gave them confidence to compete with the toughest schools in the nation.
To continue to get his team to compete a high level and get back to the post season every year is a challenge for the coach.
“Beach volleyball plays a big role in keeping our girls in shape to compete. It is a great opportunity because we are one of three Division III schools to offer beach volleyball, so we get a chance to compete with some bigger schools like Morgan State and Towson University who have athletes just like we do. It also gives us an advantage because other schools in our conference do not offer beach volleyball so it’s an opportunity for us to continually improve, get better, and prepare for the next season.”
The Mustangs finished their 2016 season at 24-7 (26-8 overall) but improved to 30-1 (33-2 overall) in 2017, winning the first round of the NCAA national tournament 3-o against Hunter College. In that game the Hawks were making their fourth straight NCAA appearance, but the Mustangs proved too much for them, winning in straight sets 25-16, 25-16, 25-19.
In the second round of the playoffs, John Hopkins University gained the win against the Mustangs, despite Stevenson’s having beaten the Blue Jays 3-1 on Oct. 19 during the regular season. In four sets (25-21, 25-19, 19-25, 25-16), the Blue Jays took the victory and moved on to face, and eventually lose to, conference foe Swarthmore.
The Mustangs will continue to improve the off-season in preparation for the 2018 season.