Archive for November, 2009

Spell it out: T-E-A-M

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 | Student Life Staff

Kurt Rohrbeck, Sports Reporter

It was last Friday, around 5:00 PM Central Time. I was sitting in my dorm room, watching online as the Washington University women’s volleyball team had just dropped the third set against Hope College and now faced an ultimatum: win the next two sets, or leave University Heights, Ohio—and end their amazing run this season—a day early. When Head Coach Rich Luenemann was forced to burn his second timeout of the set early on, with the team down 9-5, the person who I was watching the game with simply told me “It’s over, they’ve got nothing.”

While I didn’t agree with that, as I didn’t for a second doubt that this team was capable of coming back, I’ll admit I was nervous. Hope was handling the Bears the same way they had been when they handed Wash. U. its first loss of the season back on September 5. I had no plans on giving up, but I had a bit of concern that the end was near.

Now let’s fast forward 27 hours later, where it was 9:00 PM Eastern Time and I was sitting in the DeCarlo Varsity Center in Ohio, watching the Bears celebrate the national championship that they had just won over No. 1 Juniata College.

…wait, what?

There are so many things to say about this team and the season they’ve had that I don’t have any idea where to start. That fourth set against Hope and everything that occurred after it until the end of the final match essentially captured what this team is all about: hard work, heart, and teamwork.

So let’s go back to that match on Friday night. After scoring one more out of the timeout to go up 10-5, Hope put their ensuing serve into the net, putting the score at 10-6 and giving the serve back to the Bears. A Hope attacking error and a Lauren Budde kill later, the Bears found themselves within two points of erasing their early deficit and bringing this match within their grasp. Slowly, Wash. U. chipped its way through the next several points and eventually knotted the score at 16-16 on another kill by Budde.

As the set went on, the team’s heroes emerged. Erin Albers, one of the team’s two senior captains, clearly did not plan on letting her career end then and there, finishing the set with six of her career-high 25 kills. Budde made one of her best cases for the NCAA Most Outstanding Player award that she would carry home the next night, pulling in five kills and two blocks.

Yet despite the rally, the Bears found themselves down 22-23 and now two points away from a bitter end. Then Albers put down her sixth and final kill of the set. Freshman Drew Hargrave, who found her way into the starting lineup after Erin Kasson’s injury and has done nothing but improve since, threw down another kill and put the Bears at set point. Finally, despite being turned away at their first two chances, Budde put down her last kill of the set to make it 26-25. An attack error by Hope marked the end of the set.

Just like that, the Bears went from staring defeat in the eyes to pushing it to the ground, laughing. Just like that, the tide had turned. Just like that, the Bears had put themselves in a prime position to be one step away from their ultimate goal.

Surely enough, as you may have heard, the Bears won the final set and took their 10th NCAA Championship the following night.

Wash. U., with the elite volleyball program it has, will be in the national title discussion every single year. If there were any doubts about the legitimacy of this year’s squad, they were eliminated on September 18, when the Bears swept this same Juniata team out of the Wash. U. Field House. But regardless, the way that this season unfolded, and the way the Bears took out any challenge in their path, was awe-inspiring and is worth taking a look back on.

This is a team that lost its original starting setter, Vicki Blood, essentially as soon as the season started—and suddenly found the most productive setter in Division III, freshman Marilee Fisher, in its starting lineup.

This is also a team that lost their All-American outside hitter, Erin Kasson, about halfway through the season to undisclosed injury—which opened up room not only for Hargrave’s emergence on the outside but also gave the team’s other outside hitters a reason to give everything they had to step up their game.

This is a noticeably young team that has been adjusting on the fly all year. With nine of the team’s top 12 players (in terms of total sets played) being freshmen or sophomores, there was certainly some time necessary for adjustment and developing chemistry.

So how did they do it?

Because they’ve got everything that’s needed to put together an incredible team, and they know that that is how they’re going to win games.

They have the leadership. Coach Luenemann has spent the year talking about how Albers and Brazeal have been two of the best captains he’s ever had—and with the young core of this team, having solid leadership in place is key. They’ve been models of consistency in their time here, as can be seen by Brazeal’s 1,560 career digs (good for fourth all time in Wash. U. history), and they’re clutch performers who step it up in crunch time, which was made very clear when Albers kicked it into overdrive against Hope and registered her career high in kills in her next to last game as a Bear. Not to be lost in the discussion, as well, is junior captain Marya Kaminski, who also came through big in the end, registering season highs in kills, attack percentage, and digs in the final against Juniata.

They have the heart. That was the word that they all used to describe their team after the national championship match. Despite everything that may have occurred during the year, none of them ever flinched. Every challenge that stepped in their way only brought them closer—and consequently more dangerous on the court. It was a group of individuals who, six at a time, gave their all, for themselves and for everyone else on the team. Luenemann said after the championship that even if they aren’t the most talented team out there (which isn’t to say that there isn’t some spectacular talent on the team), it was an absolute that they were the team with the most heart. And I’m in no rush to disagree.

Lastly, they have the enthusiasm. The drive. The motors that just won’t shut off. I’ve been watching sporting events at all levels for the past 13 years, and I can’t say that I’ve seen many teams as consistently resilient and positive as this one. The levels of energy that the Bears show at all times are remarkable. There would be times—rare occasions, but times nonetheless—where the Bears would be down six or seven points in a set, and I’d look over at them and I would still see Kelly Pang and Tricia Brandt running around, yelling and high-fiving everyone like they had just won the lottery. Every point scored, no matter the circumstance, led to a massive celebration. Not a thing in the world could slow them down until the final whistle had sounded, and until it had, no game they were in could be considered over.

Put all of these things together, and what do you have? The textbook model for an incredible team. And we have now seen what an incredible team is capable of doing: anything it wants to do.

So let’s go back yet again to that fourth set on Friday evening. The Bears were down 9-5. Things looked grim. It was crunch time. It was time for the team to pull together like they never had before and give everything they had.

When we look at it that way…really, was there any doubt?

Congrats, ladies. Enjoy it, because you deserve it.

It’s never been better to be a Wash. U. fan

Saturday, November 21st, 2009 | Johann Qua Hiansen

With the women’s volleyball team capturing their tenth national title in program history and the fifth team national title in the past five years, it has never been better to be a Washington University sports fan.

Men’s cross country took seventh and women’s cross country took tenth at nationals. Women’s soccer advanced to the Final Four for the second time in school history.

When I stepped foot on the Danforth Campus, I had no idea that I would write for sports. I also had no idea I would go on numerous road trips to document the roller coaster of emotions caused by sports. In August of 2007, Wash. U had eight volleyball titles and four women’s basketball titles. Since then, the men’s basketball team captured two titles, men’s tennis picked up another and volleyball has come through with two. Add to that top ten finishes in a multitude of sports and Alex Beyer’s individual national title and Wash. U. is in a sports renaissance.

The sports section has reflected this with a core group of four reporters in the 2007-2008 school year, six reporters in the 2008-2009 school year and nine in the 2009-2010 school year.

Technology has also progressed with the Sports Information Department providing live streams of home games. Both the sports section (@studlifesports) and Wash. U. sports info run Twitter accounts while numerous schools have live stats available making it easier than ever to keep up with the progress of any team.

All that’s missing is the fan numbers. Community members, who had been at Wash. U. during the 1991-1996 Division III National Championship reign of the volleyball and the 1998-2001 Division III National Championship era of women’s basketball, recalled numerous occasions when the Field House was packed.

If you are a Wash. U. student or community member, come out and support the teams. They really appreciate the support and that’s what makes being a sports reporter very rewarding.

Who knows how far teams will go this year?

You can also follow the examples of three exceptional sets of fans. First of all, the parents of athletes are known to follow their children all over the country. A parent on the men’s soccer team runs a blog and a Twitter account that has helped keep Student Life up to date.

Another great group of fans are the men and women of the cross country and track and field teams who made the trip to Cleveland, Ohio despite not competing.

Finally, the men’s soccer team and other students traveled to Rockford, Ill. to support the women’s soccer team in the Elite Eight.  The group called the Conlon Crazies painted themselves in green and red while leading numerous spirited cheers.

Don’t knock Division III especially when your school boasts one of the most well rounded programs out there.

On another note, if anyone is travelling to San Antonio for the Women’s Final Four, my e-mail is [email protected].  The sports section wants to go. Do you?

The postseason

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 | Johann Qua Hiansen

The results speak for themselves and four Wash. U. teams have advanced to the next level in the NCAA tournament. Cleveland, Ohio plays host to three of those teams.

For the men’s and women’s cross country team, one race this Saturday will define their season’s worth of practices and races during rain and other harsh weather conditions.  The Bears have been rebounding from sickness and injuries. Hopefully, they’ll be able to have a good showing.

Women’s volleyball advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over No. 8 Carthage College in the Regional Final. Last year, Ohio Northern spoiled the Lady Bear’s run to the title but with Ohio Northern and defending national champion Emory University already knocked out, this weekend will be interesting. After talking with players, there’s a sense of not looking beyond their next opponent and taking it one game at a time.  Colorado College pulled out the 3-2 win against the University of La Verne and will face the Bears on Thursday. The stage is set if Wash. U. and Hope College win on Thursday for a rematch. The Bears fell 3-1 to Hope in early September.

On the other side of the bracket, Wisconsin- Osh Kosh, Juniata College and Trinity (TX) which downed Emory, are all potential contenders in the championship game.

Women’s soccer advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in four years and face familiar foe Wheaton (Ill.) at Rockford, Ill.  Last year, the Thunder took down the Bears and ended their title run. With two  one goal overtime victories this weekend, Wash. U.’s offense is under pressure to produce quickly so that the defense can take charge through the rest of the game.

Good luck to all the teams this weekend. It’s going to be an exciting one.


Monday, November 16th, 2009 | Katie Sadow

A POV (point of view), sometimes called a perspective, is an important thing to have. Realistically, it’s pretty much impossible not to have one, but it’s having the right one that’s crucial, both in life and in art. Now, I’m not saying I’ve got it down; it’s actually on my mind because in recent months I’ve been struggling to find the one that works for me. The important thing is that I’m looking. You should be looking too.

Take this sculpture installation for example:











That was a 180 degree tour of (in my humble opinion) some of the coolest art on campus. These hulking slabs of solidity are right there on the grass outside Sam Fox, next to the bus stop. Take a stroll down there sometime! What I find so intriguing about this work is that your viewing experience is refreshed and renewed every time you step ~18 degrees to the left. Here’s a recap of something like my thought process circling around this mass:

“What’s going on here? Oh wait, I can see a relationship between this black squiggly one on the left and this half-sphere on the right! Now it’s even clearer! OH, but look at this new little circle on the side! Woah, zoom out and it looks like that circle is flirting with the giant squiggle-beast! Now I can see a circle festival all the way through! And here it is on the other side! And again! And here’s the squiggle-circle relationship from the opposite side!”

It sounds a little foolish when I put it down in writing, but I’m endeavoring for honesty, embarrassing though it may be. Ignoring for a moment the specific words I used, the point is that every time you view the piece from a new angle, your perspective on the whole work shifts. Maybe you like it best from the North, South, East or West. Maybe you’d like it best from the top looking down or from the bottom looking up. Maybe you don’t like it all, but you’ve got to admit that it’s interesting.

If only gaining new perspectives in life were as easy as stepping a few feet in a different direction. We obviously know that’s not the case, but perhaps we can learn something from the simplicity of perspective acquisition in this particular case, even if it’s only that new perspectives breed new thought. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our own lives, especially within the hallowed halls of a prestigious university; we’re all guilty of this at some point. We’re also constantly being reminded to step outside ourselves and broaden our world view, but how often do we heed such sage advice? Just in case you haven’t heard it in a while, here is your daily (weekly, monthly, yearly) reminder to zoom out, rotate 180 degrees clockwise or counter, try to get a little perspective. It’ll do you some good.

The Changing Seasons

Sunday, November 1st, 2009 | Johann Qua Hiansen

With the falling leaves and colder temperatures as a backdrop, the fall sports have begun to reach the end of their seasons.

Congratulations are in order to the women’s cross country team for winning UAAs and the men’s team for taking fourth. Junior Taryn Surtees repeated as individual champion and we’ll see how the team looks at Regionals in Wisconsin.

The No. 3 volleyball team steamrolled through the Bears Classic in preparation for UAAs and an automatic NCAA tournament bid. Seniors Erin Albers and Laura Brazeal were recognized on Friday night before the Bears dismantled the Wildcats of Culver-Stockton College. Congratulations to these two great seniors for all of their accomplishments.

The only other home action was swimming and diving. Every year swimmers seem to get faster and faster from the start. Freshman Meg Powers took control with two individual first place finishes, a second place finish in the 2oo back and a first in the 400 free relay. On the men’s side, junior David Chao was the lone Wash. U. swimmer to win an event against Div. I SIUE on Friday. Chao also contributed to the meet clinching 400 free relay at the end as the Bears edged DePauw by four points overall.

Both men’s and women’s soccer picked up wins against Brandeis on Friday. The men’s team fell to NYU while the women picked up an OT victory on a header by senior Becca Heymann. The women have the better chance of taking the conference with a tie and five wins so far.  The Lady Bears are only one point ahead of Rochester. The Bears must beat Chicago to capture the outright title or tie to share the title.. If they lose and Rochester wins, the Lady Bears will be second.  The men will need several upsets and win their Chicago game for a shot at sharing the title.

Women’s golf leapt up the rankings  to No. 5 without playing in a tournament.

Just two weeks remain till the first men’s basketball game the season and a few days before an exhibition women’s game against SIUE. Both Wash. U. teams are ranked preseason No. 1.