Third-seeded Clark Volleyball Team kept their tournament hopes alive with a 3-2 win over sixth-seeded Wellesley College in the NEWMAC Quarterfinals game on Tuesday Nov. 3. The fully-packed Kneller Athletic Center was quite a scene — fans were on their feet making plenty of noise as the game dragged into the heart-stopping fifth set, in which the Cougars came out on top.
For over a decade, the volleyball team had yet to host a NEWMAC playoff game. The last time they recorded twenty wins in their regular season was in 2000. They finished the regular season at 20-7 this year. Tuesday’s match was the fifth time the Cougars and the Wellesley Blue have met in post-season. In all four prior meetings, Wellesley knocked Clark out of the playoffs with 3-0 scores.
Despite the program’s lack of success against the Blue in the past, the team still felt confident going into this game. “We’ve gained some valuable members that made some influential changes,” said co-captain Shannon Glass-Smythe (‘16).
Setter Rachel Webb (‘19) has made a tremendous impact on the Cougars’ 2015 season. She is ranked twentieth in the country and first in the NEWMAC in assists per set, and sits admirably at third on Clark’s all-time single season records. Outside hitter Marina Ramos (‘18) has also been a crucial component to the Cougars’ success. She is the sole player in the NEWMAC to rank in the top ten in both kills per set (second), and digs per set (sixth). Her 365 kills this season alone are the second most in a single season in Clark history.
The morale of the team has hit an all-time high, “We feel confident about ourselves. [In] previous years, Clark was looked at as the underdogs. Now, we actually have the confidence to win; we can get into conference finals. We have the stability and consistency to do that for once,” said libero Mia Cattaneo (’17).
Their new assistant coach, Mel Conde, who just last year graduated from Clark University as a member of the volleyball, has ameliorated the dynamic of the group on and off of the field. “She’s a fifth year, so almost all of us on the team have played with her. I think her role on the team has been very big because it’s been nice to have a coach [and] a friend that I can talk to and feel comfortable [around],” said outside hitter Savannah Sanford (’17). The Head Coach of nine seasons, Mickey Cahoon, has also created a comfortable and familiar environment for the team to excel in, “He’s been coaching us for a few years, so he knows how we like to be talked to and what motivates us,” said Glass-Smythe.
The members of the team said this is just the beginning for the Clark Volleyball. Regardless of how the rest of their post-season goes, the records set and the well-earned attention given propel the team for subsequent seasons to come, “[This] sets a new tone and bar for what we want to do in the future,” said Glass-Smythe. “Recruiting-wise, people are starting to know our name. People may have known Clark was a good school, but didn’t necessarily know about the Program. Now, they can list Clark as having a competitive volleyball program,” said Sanford (’17).
The Cougars play next in the NEWMAC Semifinals versus Springfield College this Saturday, Nov. 7, at MIT at 3:30 p.m.