Friday, May 4, 2018

Relay for Life 2018

Our players are involved in a lot of different community service events as individuals and one of the main ones we do as a Team is Relay for Life!  Three members of our team were especially involved as Event Organizers for this big day, and they were Emily, Sarah and Beth.  Kudos to the three of you for your extra efforts all year (and years) raising money and organizing for this special event! 

Most of the team came out at one point or another, and I got pictures of most of them.  Beth, Sarah and Emily were there all day, setting up, running the show and making sure it all went as planned, including dealing with the rain.  We made it through most of the event before the heavier rain started, and they even moved the luminaria celebration inside, along with the closing ceremony.  The rain actually ended with about an hour left so people could still get some laps in as darkness was setting in. As you can see from the "check-in tent picture" below with Beth and Sarah that it was a little chilly at times, although we may credit the hat that Sarah's wearing to her southern California upbringing...I'm not sure it was actually THAT cold!  ha ha...

Becca Grais, Shea, and El were all there for a bit also, which was great, and I saw Becca and Eliana briefly late afternoon before the rain really kicked in.  Jack and Emily have both been involved for many years now, and since it was their final Relay, I had to get a picture of the two of them, and they were nice enough to allow me to take a picture "for the Blog!"  Thanks guys!  And, really, thank you for all that you've done over the years for Relay.  It's a great event, and there's probably not a single one of us who don't know someone affected by cancer, and for most of us, it's multiple people.  I know for sure you were both involved last year as well, and maybe all four years? 

The American Cancer Society continues to make strides, and the young student speaker who was diagnosed as a very young child thanked everyone involved because he credits his quality of life to the strides they've made with treatments, which is so encouraging to hear.  In his speech he mentioned working at a camp for young children with cancer, and he said the reactions from parents who see him there and hear his story are uplifting as they look at him now in college and can picture their children surviving this disease, and he could see the HOPE in their eyes and in their face, and that's such a special thing.  Let's keep working for more success stories!!

 The final picture here is our friends from Special Olympics, Kate, Sam and Cari.  They used to be super fans a few years ago, so we're going to have to work on getting them back to our games, but they turned up for Relay and we had a great time catching up! 

Well, it's really starting to look and feel like Spring here, finally, so Happy Spring, everyone!  Graduation is in a little over three weeks, believe it or not!  That will be our final farewell to Emily, Becca, Alice and Eliana as student MCVBers....because they're now Alumnae MCVB!  We'll welcome them back to MIDD forever as alumnae of both our own MCVB family and the Middlebury College community!!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Spring Recruiting and Visits with Alums

Spring really means recruiting season for me.  Along my travels to recruit and scout out potential new Panthers, I've also been fortunate to connect with some former alums, which has been really fun!

My first trip was to Boston, so a closer trip than most!  While there, I got to connect with Meg Anderson '14 who was also playing in the adult portion of the Mizuno Boston Festival.  It was great to see Meg back out on the court tearing it up!  She also was great to consult with me during her free time.  As a former assistant, she watched some recruits with me and weighed in with her evaluations, which I always appreciate.

A couple weeks later, I was out in Denver at the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier.  Another fun thing while out recruiting is seeing other NESCAC colleagues, and it's always fun to hang out with Candice from Colby, and many of our other NESCAC colleagues as well.

While in Denver for the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier, I got to have dinner with Dawn Trowbridge Marsh '00 and her husband Jon (also '00), and their wonderful kids.  Their daughter could become my first recruit whose mom also played for me...if I make it that long!  She's still got a few more years before she's in the recruit-able range, but I think she's playing some good ball these days!  I had so much fun at dinner just catching up.  The kids were fabulous to hang out and be part of the conversation too, which was so fun!

Also in Denver I took some time on Sunday after I'd finished recruiting to head up to Boulder to catch up with another alum from the same era as Dawn.  Amy Lowell Bloch '01 has a new baby and a toddler that I'd never met, so that was great fun seeing them!  I met Charlie when they were visiting New England before they were married...I think they stopped by during pre season a few years ago to say hello and check out MIDD.  It was great to connect with them and get caught up what's going on in Boulder and meet the kids.  Her new baby literally slept the whole time, peacefully!  Amazing...and Quinn is a sweet toddler in that great stage of hanging out laughing and smiling and playing with her food, but still eating most of it.  Adorable!!   I also got the full range of weather in CO with seasonable temps most of the time I was there, walking around in just a light jacket, to hail in Boulder, to giant wet flakes of snow that turned into a blinding blizzard on my way down from Boulder, back to simple light rain.  Anyway, really fun trip and great to re connect with both Dawn and Amy and their families!

My final trip was to Chicago for the Windy City Qualifier.  I'd not been to this tournament before, but I love Chicago and was excited to go. A funny thing happened to me the day I was arriving.  I got a text from my niece from CA who said she was thinking of me because in the convention center next to her TESOL Conference was a huge volleyball tournament.  Long story short, we were at the same convention center!  She was finishing up her conference just as I was arriving, but we got to hang out and catch up briefly, which was a surprise bonus!!

I had planned to see Jane Handel '12 sometime over the weekend.  Originally from Evanston, she still lives in the Chicago area, and has been doing some youth coaching and is still playing, so she was excited to join me for an afternoon of watching volleyball.  We probably watched almost three hours of volleyball while catching up before heading to Chinatown for dinner on Saturday night.  We then took the El downtown to the Riverwalk section.  It was a bit brisk to be out walking along the river, but there's a nice walking section down there and they've redone that  section along the river with lots of bars and restaurants along it, so I'm sure it's even better in nice weather.

Following those trips we've had a nice string of recruits visiting campus, which has been great also!  If the weather would just cooperate, it might actually start to feel like Spring?!  Spring sometimes takes it's time coming to VT, but it's awfully nice when it does arrive!  Happy Spring!

Friday, March 9, 2018

MCVB Gear Fundraiser

Several alums have asked if we could do an MCVB Gear on-line store, so here's the chance to get your MIDD Volleyball stuff!!  (Not just for alums, but for FANS as well!!)  We're doing this as a fundraiser to help support the team, and hopefully this gets you all some great MIDD gear to wear around and show your support!  There are youth sizes, so those of you with kids can get your gang in some MIDD Volleyball gear now, too!  Shop NOW because the Orders Due by Friday, March 23, 2018!

We're also working on an Alumnae Game for next year, so for any of the alums reading this, we'll keep you all in the loop for that also.  There is a limited offering of MCVB gear in town, so THIS is the place to get your volleyball gear if you're interested!  Happy shopping!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

College Trustees Invite Coaches and Athletes to Dinner

When the College Trustees were last on campus in January, they invited a group of coaches and student athletes to have dinner with them at Atwater.  Becca, Isabel, Chellsa and Sarah were invited to join me for the event.  It was a very fun evening, and we had a chance to mingle and talk with several trustees, which was very nice.

There was a small panel of student athletes who all shared a "Middlebury Moment" with the group, and then we were asked to share our own "Midd Moments" at our tables.  Becca was selected to sit on the panel and the MIDD Moment she shared was winning NESCAC's in 2016.  She highlighted not only winning NESCAC's, but the community spirit she felt when our Field Hockey team, who was also at Tufts competing in their championship all streamed into the gym after their game and gathered in the gym to watch and cheer at the end of our come-back match!

They had an open bar, and since everyone but Chellsa is of age, we were able to share a glass of wine together, which was also nice.  The food was good, and it was great for me personally to connect with an old friend from college who is currently serving on the Board of Trustees, in addition to meeting some other board members and getting to know each other a little.  It's always fun to spend time with team members in other settings, so this was a great opportunity for that as well!  The Board has been meeting with various focus groups around campus and this was an opportunity for many of the board members to have a much closer look into what role athletics has played in these student's experience.

By the time I'm posting this, J-term has ended and second semester just started.  Isabel is already in Prague, and our seniors enter their final semester of undergraduate!  Over Break we also got a beautiful new foot of snow!!

Happy February from MCVB!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

MCVB Celebrates Season with Team Brunch

We celebrated our season at Rosie's Restaurant over brunch a couple weeks ago now, and I want to share the pictures from it with everyone.  It was a fun morning and a good way to get the day going for those still studying hard for finals.  A couple of people were actually leaving later that day with finals either being done, or papers that could be handed in on-line.

It's so hard to go from seeing the team every day to only seeing them once in a while, so I always look forward to the banquet because it's usually the first time I'll see the team all together since the last day of our season.

The first people I want to recognize from our banquet are the 7 Nescac All-Academic players.  This is something we pride ourselves on, and this group kept up the exceptional work in the classroom as well as on the court, so I'm proud to recognize these 7:  Sarah, Emily, Becca, Eliana, Chellsa, Alice and Isabel.  Great job, guys!!

Next, we want to recognize our Team award winners.  The team votes for three awards.  We have the MCVB Spirit Award to recognize the person who consistently demonstrates the positive spirit of MCVB.  That award went to Beth Neal.  The team also votes on the Yellow Jersey Award (think Tour de France).  This award recognizes the person who gives consistent effort and works hard to become a better player every day in practice.  This award went to Emily Kolodka.  The final award is the Panther Pride Award which recognizes a player for being the best teammate.  Becca was awarded this for making those around her better by holding herself and others accountable to a high standard of excellence, while also being supportive and understanding.

Next, we honor our freshmen for getting their Varsity Letter.  Physical Education is a graduation requirement at MIDD, so every freshman athlete gets one credit out of the way by playing a varsity sport.  In the Physical Education Department, one has to demonstrate breadth of activity, not depth, so they only get one PE credit for volleyball, even playing 4 years.  (As the Director of PE, I fully support this!)  We've had people do fun things with their letters like make a Varsity Letter Jacket (very cool!), and a Holiday stocking with the M on it.  Congrats to our freshmen for earning their Varsity M!

Our seniors are a focal point of the banquet also and although we don't have them give speeches (perhaps that's a good idea for the future), it's nice to honor them for their dedication to the Program for four years.  To show my appreciation, I've given the seniors a fleece blanket embroidered with their # on it for several years now, maybe decades?!  :)

We also honor the captains for this year and thank them for all the hard work they do keeping the team together, helping the communication lines between the team and the coaches stay active and helping motivate and organize the team, so a big THANK YOU to Becca, Emily and Sarah.

We also want to be sure to recognize our two All-NESCAC honorees, so we presented both Becca and Isabel with their All-NESCAC certificates for 1st team and 2nd Team respectively.  With the depth of talent in the NESCAC, it's a very high honor to be selected as one of the top players in the Conference.  Becca was also a member of the All-Sportsmanship Team for NESCAC, as voted on by her teammates.  Of the 763 student athletes named to the All-Academic Team, only 4 across all 11 institutions were named to ALL three teams:  All-Academic, All-NESCAC, and All-Sportsmanship, and Becca was one of those 4!

In addition, this year, ALL FOUR seniors were honored by the NEWVA (New England Women's Volleyball Association) by being asked to take part in the Senior Classic.  This is an event that brings the top seniors in New England together for some fun skill competitions and then they play a final match.  This event happens at a tough time for us with our beak schedule, and finals, and the distance we have to travel just to get there, so unfortunately, they were unable to go, but it was a great honor that all four were selected for this.

It was a great season overall, despite the fact it didn't quite finish the way we were hoping, but we have lots of things to work on in the off season to prepare for next year.  It's like we say after every loss, as long as we learn something from this experience that will make us better in the future, it's all OK.  I'm looking forward to doing some fun things with the team in the off season like skating, golfing, paddle tennis or squash, and who knows what else.  I've already gone to an a capella concert by Gigi's group (fantastic), and hopefully I'll get to more of other people's events, too.  Happy Holidays to everyone, and here's to a great New Year!!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Several Post Season Honors for Becca and Isabel

Raffel, Sessions Earn All-NESCAC Volleyball Accolades

(L-R): Becca Raffel and Isabel Sessions
(L-R): Becca Raffel and Isabel Sessions
Two Middlebury College volleyball players were honored when the league announced its All-NESCAC recipients. Senior Becca Raffel (Palo Alto, Calif.) was named to the conference's first team for the third-straight season, while junior Isabel Sessions (Chicago, Ill.) picked up her second-consecutive spot on the second team. The duo helped guide the Panthers to a 16-9 record in 2017.
Becca finished 4th in the NESCAC in kills/set, and Isabel finished 6th in kills/set and 5th in hitting % (the top OH)!  Huge congrats to them for these nice honors, especially in a Conference as deep with talent as the NESCAC, these are very nice honors. (NOTE:  I wrote this short paragraph.  Everything else in this entry was all from our SID Office.)

Raffel, Sessions Named AVCA All-Region

(L-R): Becca Raffel and Isabel Sessions
(L-R): Becca Raffel and Isabel Sessions
Two members of the Middlebury College volleyball team were honored when the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) handed out postseason honors. Senior Becca Raffel (Palo Alto, Calif.) was a first-team All-Northeast Region selection for the third-consecutive year, while junior Isabel Sessions (Chicago, Ill.) was an honorable mention selection. The duo helped guide the Panthers to a 16-9 record in 2017.
Raffel is a three-time First-Team All-NESCAC selection and the 2014 NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year. The outside hitter ranked second in the league in kills (317) and fourth in kills per set (3.34), while hitting .238. She recorded a double-digit kill total in 20 matches this fall, including a season-best 21 against Wesleyan. Raffel played in all 25 matches with 95 sets played this season. The senior also posted career-best totals of 290 digs and 3.05 digs per set, tallying 14 double-doubles to go along with 26 service aces and 18 total blocks. She became just the fifth player in the program's history to eclipse the 1,000-kill plateau, finishing her four years with 1,163 kills. She concludes her career second all-time in the Panther record books with 3.29 kills per set and fifth in kills.
Sessions picks up her first all-region honor after collecting her second-straight spot on the All-NESCAC second team. She was second on the team and sixth in the league with 3.17 kills per set. A member of the NEWVA All-Rookie team in 2015, Sessions recorded 10 or more kills in 16 matches this season. During her last five matches of 2017, she averaged over 16 kills per match, including a career-best 23 kills in a five-set contest at Williams in the regular-season finale. For the season, Sessions led the Panthers and ranked fifth in the NESCAC with a .299 hitting percentage including two matches with a .667 or better mark. She enters her senior year with career totals of 802 kills and 2.96 kills per set.

Raffel Named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team

Raffel Named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team 
Middlebury College volleyball player Becca Raffel (Palo Alto, Calif.) has been named a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) District I First-Team Academic All-District selection. The senior outside hitter helped the Panthers to a 16-9 record this season.
Raffel is an economics major at Middlebury, owning a 3.86 grade point average. She is a three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) First-Team All-Northeast Region selection and a three-time First-Team All-NESCAC selection as well as the 2014 NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year. 
The Panther will now be placed on a national ballot with the Academic All-American team slated to be released on December 13.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Season Ends in NESCAC Quarterfinals

We entered the NESCAC Tournament with hopes of being the first 6th seed team to win a Championship, and in the first two sets against Bowdoin Friday night, we looked like we just might be primed to do it.  We'd had a disappointing final weekend where we lost to both Hamilton and Williams in 5 sets, but after a good week of practice, we were ready for NESCAC Championship action!

We started strongly, going up by as many as 6 at 17-11, but a late surge by Bowdoin reminded us that no one would lay down at tournament time as they narrowed the lead to 3 at 23-20, but we traded points to close out the set 25-22.  The second set was more of the same, with us leading by a few points, up 6 again with a 17-11 lead again mid way through the set, but we maintained a 3-4 point lead right up to the finish for a second set win of 25-18.

The third set started out somewhat the same, trading points and small runs for an 8-8 tie before a surge by Bowdoin put them up 17-11 this time.  Their lead grew to 13-24 before we mounted a final push, scoring five straight points, but eventually fell 18-25.  We thought the late surge by us would give us some momentum heading into the 4th set, still leading 2-1 in sets for the match.  The fourth set would be one of strings of points by both teams.  We went up early 5-1, then they came back to go up 11-7.  We were back and forth pretty much the whole time after that, with multiple ties and then small surges by both teams.  Tied at 21-21, we scored three straight points to go up 24-21.  Despite sitting on three match points, we couldn't convert them for the win.  We traded points one more time for a 25-25 tie, before their right side scored the final two points to force a 5th and deciding set.

The fifth set was a battle, but three separate 3 point strings by Bowdoin seemed to put the match out of reach for us.  Tied at 3-3, they scored 3 straight to go up 6-3, and again to go up 9-4, and finally when we trailed 10-12, they scored the final three to take the match.  It was a disappointing loss for sure, and this one will hurt for a while, I'm afraid.  For the seniors, it's not the way any of us wanted their careers to end, but we kept fighting to the end.  For the rest of us, we'll try to learn from this as we always do, and move forward for next year.

For our four seniors, they've given so much to our Program over their careers.  They've been NESCAC Champs and regionally ranked almost every year.  They were 64-27 for their careers, and ALL four were selected for the Senior Classic by the New England Volleyball Coaches.  (We'll do a separate blog entry for that, but that's a very nice honor.)  It's a tribute to them as players and to the Program and speaks volumes about what those seniors contributed over their careers to have all been honored!  Congrats Becca, Emily, Alice and Eliana!!  We will certainly miss you four next year!!