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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
In what would ultimately be a three-set loss to drop the team to 3-7 on the year, The Wellesley Raiders volleyball team was all over the place, ranging from looking like a great team that could compete with anyone, to one being run out of the building.
In the first set, Wellesley looked every bit as good as Milton. Eventually taking an 18-16 lead after a couple nice serves from Chloe Cator, the Raiders needed a timeout when they suddenly found themselves down 23-20 just a few minutes later. Never able to right the ship, they would lose the first set, 25-21.
In the second set, Milton ran out to an early 17-11 lead. However, Wellesley would come storming back on a string of Chloe Cator kills and unreturnable Sadie Cohen serves. Eventually taking an 18-17 lead, Wellesley looked like its momentum would carry them to take the second set. However, another sudden bad stretch from the Raiders, highlighted by a serve that went long, gave Milton the second set, 25-20.
The third frame saw an obviously disheartened Wellesley squad go down 25-12 in a set that was pretty much one-way traffic.
When it came to the match, Coach Fabe Ardila noted that it’s not as if his team isn’t big or quick enough to compete; their issues are between the ears.
“They fought hard in the first set,” said the coach. “We were going point for point, but that mental aspect of the game tends to get us. Once the first three points aren’t going our way, we tend to play safe, and in safety, you may win fifty percent of the time, but you’re going to lose fifty percent of the time. We’re just not doing a good job of understanding the situation and coming up with solutions for it.”
The situations Coach Ardila seemed most concerned about were “out-of-system plays” - that is, plays when a bad break or a weird bounce happens, and the team needs to adjust.
“I have to make them feel comfortable being uncomfortable, because at the end of the day, if the ball comes back and it’s weird and we’ve got to go get it and bring it back in, we’ve got to be okay with that. We’ve got to be okay with out-of-system plays, and initially we were on that idea, and then we kind of slowly gave up. The bottom line is the mental aspect of the game isn’t as easy as it should be for us; we are giving up too easily on the mental side of the game.”
While the obvious issue is the youth of the team, Coach Ardila was unwilling to let that excuse stand.
“They’re athletes,” said the coach. “They’ve got to persevere. They’ve got to be relentless. They’ve got to find a way to get grit, and that grit is what’s going to keep them going forward. I’m sure on [the Milton] side, as well, and on any team, they’ve got freshman, too. They’ve got sophomores, too. It really comes down to can we keep it together the entire time - not up and down, and up and down, which is what has happened in the past.”
While Coach Ardila was unwilling to let his team’s youth be an excuse for their struggles, he did acknowledge that the player who shined throughout the game was a senior, Sadie Cohen.
“On the good side, Sadie Cohen is probably one of our better players. Even though Chloe had the most kills, Sadie has the much better all-around game, and I think she keeps us together and is the more consistent player. She passes well, she serves well, she does things with purpose, which is what we need to learn from. We need to be like that.” But again, she’s a senior,” said the coach, pointing at his head, “so she’s got it all together up here.”
While the team lost, there was still a great thing about the game: it was “Dig Pink” night, so the players wore pink shirts, the lines were adorned with pink tape, and the entire middle school volleyball team was in the crowd. Even if they didn’t produce a win, the Raiders (with a lot of help from team parents) raised money for breast cancer research - a victory in itself.