BY JEANINE BIGGS
The Spartans Volleyball season came to an end on Thursday, Nov. 30. The women closed out their season with a loss to The University West Florida in the National College Athletics Association South Regional Tournament in Lakeland, Florida. The first round loss against the #17 ranked Argonauts ended the Spartan’s post season ambitions.
Losing 3-1, the Spartans fought back in the third set of the match, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The Spartans fell to the Argonauts in a tight battle during the first set of the contest, 36-34. Freshman Nylah Demps, Junior Alexandra Misca, Nicole Dominguez and Senior Molly McAlvany were the stand out players for UT, keeping the team in the set until the end. The momentum from their first set win seemed to carry over for West Florida. Despite capitalizing on West Florida’s mistakes early in the set, the Spartans couldn’t match the fire power of the Argonauts. After a timeout called by the Spartan’s head coach Chris Catanach after falling behind 18-12, the ladies attempted a rally but it was too late, finishing the set 25-17.
After two heartbreaking losses to start the match, the Spartans had to bounce back and head right back into the zone without an intermission to regroup. The third set started off similarly to the first two, which seemed to be heading in the same direction, a loss.
The Spartans weren’t going to go out that easily though. Down 7-2, a timeout was called allowing the ladies to refocus and regroup. The timeout proved to be just what the Spartans needed as they bounced back and winning the set 25-19. The freshman duo of Sorrel Houghton and Nylah Demps showed their worth to the team during the set, coming up with timely blocks and saves to keep their team in it.
The final set of the match didn’t swing the Spartans way as they were sent home after a 25-19 loss, ending the match, tournament, and their season. Despite the loss, the match was one for the individual record books as Sophomore Sammy Mueller picked up her ninth double-double of the season. Senior Molly McAlvany closed the book on her impressive career at UT, picking up and impressive season high of 28 digs during the four sets and picking up an honorable mention by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in the process. Closing out the season, the Spartans have a lot to be proud of. Starting the season, they quickly got themselves in a deep hole with a record of 3-10 but they found a way to persevere and climb out, ending the season 18-14.
“I am very proud of this group of kids,” said head coach Chris Catanach. “I scheduled too tough and it put us in a hole (3-10 record at close to the midpoint of the season). The team rallied back at went on an 8-0 run and then a 7-0 run to end the season.”
The 2017 season was one of streakiness for the Spartans. Starting off 3-0, then hitting a six game losing streak before they found their stride and hit an eight game win streak before dropping two to close out October. Even with the two loses, Tampa got back in the win column, winning seven in a row to stay undefeated in regular season play during November.
“The togetherness was very strong this season,” said senior Shelby Joslin. “We had some rough patches but it caused our team to rally together against the adversity and push through to accomplish our goals.”
Despite the trying times and slow start, the team stuck together and fought alongside one another in order to get the results they wanted. With the season coming to a close, the team will lose key players as four seniors will say their goodbyes to the team before they graduate. Key players, Molly McAlvany, Jen Aprile, Shelby Joslin, and Kasey Reynolds ended their college career with the loss in the playoffs this year. Even with four players leaving, the Spartans will be in good shape next season due to their young talent getting a chance during this season to show off their talents and grow as players, with three freshman and four sophomores during the starting lineup at one point during the season.
“Nylah Demps and Sorrel Houghton are two freshmen who showed a lot of potential,” said Catanach. “We will miss all of our seniors; they are great teammates, really good people and their influence was immeasurable.”
Like with many other college athletes, the seniors will have a lot of adjusting to do as they graduate, but they will look back with fondness on their time in the sport and with their team.
“I will definitely miss my team the most. There is no other experience like practicing, competing, and traveling the country with some of your best friends,” said Joslin. “It’s like having 20 sisters; you love everyone and would drop whatever you’re doing to help one of them out if they need you.”
Jeanine Biggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org