By: Brian Laubscher
So yesterday I presented the top football moments from the last 11 years at Washington and Lee. Today, we take a look at the top volleyball moments in chronological order.
You wouldn’t think that it would be difficult to produce a good list for a sport that has gone a combined 246-51 (.828) over the last eight seasons, but their own success has ensured that they rarely play close matches. Regardless, there have been several significant moments and I’ve listed them below.
As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome. Hope you enjoy!
The first moment includes an entire season. It was 1998, my first year at Washington and Lee. The Generals finished the season 26-2, with only 12 matches actually going more than the minimum of three games. Despite losing their final match of the season way back on Sept. 26 and ending the season with 16-straight wins, W&L was denied a bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. At that time, there were not automatic bids for the conference champion and W&L’s in-region ranking was not high enough to warrant an at-large bid. The season was the first for Lindsay Ruckert, who earned the ODAC Rookie of the Year Award and was a four-time First Team All-ODAC honoree. It was also the only season she did not receive ODAC Player of the Year honors, something I still maintain was only because the coaches did not want to set a precedent of presenting the award to a first-year student. Despite the season that Ruckert produced (318 kills, .344 hitting %, 307 digs, 77 blocks, 39 aces) and considering that Nancy Reinhart, the 2007 ODAC Player of the Year, had another fine season (240 kills, 402 digs, 38 aces), a General did not win the award that year. Obviously, I’m having trouble letting go.
W&L fell to Roanoke by a score of 15-4, 15-7, 15-6 on October 25, 2000. It was not a good match, but it was a significant one. The loss ended a home ODAC winning streak for W&L that had lasted better than six seasons. That was not the significant moment. Just days earlier, the Generals lost first-year outside hitter Kristin Shelton in a vehicle accident. This was their first match back on the court. The Maroons won quite easily and it wasn’t hard to understand why when you could see the players’ tears on the court. They gave their all, but were still overcome with grief. I remember the game because the team had the support of the entire W&L community and an estimated crowd of better than 1,800 showed up to cheer them on. It is still the largest crowd that I have ever seen in the Warner Center and the only match that I ever called every single point over the PA system. The Roanoke players gave the W&L players flowers after the game and the Generals began a new winning streak in 2001. It would be another six and a half years before W&L lost another match to an ODAC foe. Despite not playing a full season, Shelton was posthumously awarded the ODAC Rookie of the Year award for 2000. She was talented and quite deserving.
How could I forget September 13, 2003? The day had begun badly with the 36-7 drubbing that the football team took at Johns Hopkins. Drubbing might be kind as W&L was outgained 508-174 on the day. Former W&L sports information student assistant Jake Trotter and I were doing our first radio broadcast together and it was not going smooth. I believe we made some wrong turns in Baltimore that day and were a bit tardy to the game. No intro, just straight into the game, which had already begun by the time we got on the air. I think it was rainy and humid – just miserable. So, when I received the news on my cell that the volleyball team was about to defeat Emory, the day got significantly better. I was weaving my way through the streets of Baltimore on my way back to Lexington and I decided to call then-assistant SID Cory Thornton to see how everything was going. It was Cory’s first weekend with athletic events and I wanted to make sure all was good back in Lexington. He was working the W&L Volleyball Invitational and informed me that we were ready to close out our match with Emory. So I assume it is a loss, I mean Emory has always been a thorn in the side of W&L volleyball. Then he says nope, just a few points away from a 3-0 sweep in the title match. I stayed on the line with Cory and he gave me the play-by-play of the final couple of points. At that point I lost all focus on driving through Baltimore and nearly sideswiped a few parked cars along the street, but the news made my day and made for a much happier ride home. Michelle Chastain had 15 kills and 24 digs and Christine Gladysz posted 43 assists and 16 digs en route to being named Tournament MVP. W&L went on to post a 35-4 record that season, best in program history.
The NYU match in the NCAA Tournament on November 10, 2006 was probably one of the most significant moments in program history. Though the Generals had been extremely successful on a conference and regional level, until this match they had never made a statement on the national level. NYU was the top-seeded team and ranked 16th nationally and W&L had never advanced past the second round of the tournament. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday and I had driven to Cleveland to broadcast the football game against Case Western Reserve (ironically with Jake who was living in Ohio then). I stopped off with the team at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and had just enough time to grab dinner and get to the hotel in time to catch most of the match through Duckcast (I think that’s what Stevens Tech’s online video streaming was called). Not many Division III schools were streaming video at that point and it was pretty cool to watch the match in my hotel room. You could feel the intensity of every point. We went up 2-1 and the fourth game was a close one. NYU pulled it out 31-29 and then the Generals won the fifth game 15-13 to clinch it. Lauren Edmonson posted a school-record 11 aces and 25 digs and Kassie Bagley played awesome with 12 kills and eight digs while matching up with NYU’s three-time All-America middle Elena Drinka. The Generals fell to host Stevens Tech the next evening, but the NYU match validated the program on a national level.
The entire 2001 season. First team to win 30 matches (30-5).
The entire 2003 season. Unquestionably the program’s most talented team. They finished with a 35-4 overall record.
October 24, 2008 – The Generals nearly upset top-ranked and eight-time national champion Juniata on their home court. W&L took them to five games before falling 11-25, 26-24, 25-27, 25-23, 7-15.