Chioma Ugwonali ’20 jumped up in front of the net to block her opponent’s spike, sending the ball flying to the other side of the court and building momentum for Andover Girls Volleyball in its fourth set against Loomis Chaffee on Saturday. This play carried Andover to a decisive 3-1 victory. The team’s record now stands 2-1-1.
After losing its first set, Andover persevered and came back in each remaining set of the game in order to defeat the notoriously challenging Loomis team, according to Brooklyn Wirt ’21.
Wirt said, “Loomis is always a difficult team to play. For the last two years against Loomis we’ve gone to five sets, and this year we closely lost the first set, 27-29. In the second set we went down by a lot but ended up coming back to win. The next set we also came back and won, to win two sets in a row. In the third set we were down again in the beginning, and at the end were down by five points, but we came back to win the whole thing 25-21 which was exciting.”
In the week leading up to the match, Andover received the opportunity to work in practice with Brazilian beach volleyball player and Olympic medalist Mônica Rodrigues. According to Violet Enes ’21, Rodrigues’ expertise helped Andover to elevate its level of play before the match against Loomis.
“[On Saturday,] our team did a really good job of supporting each other, even when the energy was low. We were dynamic and connected on the court. I really want to highlight Ms. Rodrigues, our visitor coach who is an Olympic silver medalist in beach volleyball. Our play has been heightened to a whole other level, thanks to her,” said Enes.
According to Captain Serena Liu ’19, the team’s improvement in communication, defensive play, and technical execution all contributed to its win against Loomis.
“What we improved on during this game was the team chemistry that we had on the court. We moved well together as a team up behind the hitter as they hit, picking up a lot more blocks that came back and manipulating our defense to pick up balls that usually may have hit the back corner. We also had a lot less service errors or little things that would accumulate over time, which happened a lot our first few games, so there were more balls we were able to put over the net instead of into the net,” said Liu.
On Saturday, Andover demonstrated its growth so far this season, as the team connected on all aspects of play that the team was lacking in previous games, according to Sarah Chen ’21.
Chen said, “Two games ago, when we played Taft, we pushed really hard but lost because the quality of our playing wasn’t up to scratch. At our last game, the scrimmage against Central Catholic, our team was very technically strong, but we lacked the drive. During this game against Loomis, we were able to bring both our motivation and our technical execution together. Also, defense did a great job of covering the block. I think we work well together and are able to push each other. In the last set, we were able to take a breath and collect ourselves before pushing through to get the win.”
In addition to Andover’s overall strong team play, the match featured a standout performance from Ugwonali, according to Liu.
“[Ugwonali] was awesome. I’m so amazed every time by the level [of] improvement that I’ve seen from her last year to this year, and especially she’s a force up in the net. There was a really strong middle hitter on the Loomis team, but Chioma was able to get around the blocks and spike it right down into their court. She was a great defensive player up in the net by blocking most of the hitter’s balls on the other side,” said Liu.
Despite its success against Loomis, Andover seeks to continue to advance and refine its play, specifically in its consistency and serving, according to Wirt.
Wirt said, “For games in the future, I think that our team is still really working on improving our consistency in both our serving and our serve receiving, because that was one of our main weaknesses during that whole game. It’s something we can always make better.”
Andover will face Rivers at home next Wednesday.
Editor’s Note: Sarah Chen ’21 is an Associate Digital Editor for The Phillipian.