The American University volleyball team (20-11) was swept by the Colgate Raiders (22-8) in the Patriot League championship game on Nov. 19. This match was played at Colgate’s Cotterell Court in Hamilton, New York. Colgate’s win in this game secured them a spot in the NCAA Championship tournament.
The Eagles entered this championship matchup on a three-match winning streak, defeating the Bucknell Bison 3-0 in their regular season finale, the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds 3-0 in a Patriot League quarterfinal match and the Army Black Knights 3-0 in a Patriot League semi-final match. Colgate won their final three regular season matches before defeating the Navy Midshipmen 3-1 on Nov. 17 in a Patriot League semi-final match.
American started off this game with the same performance as their semi-final match against Army, coming out strong and sending the other team reeling early. The Eagles opened up with an 8-2 run featuring four kills from graduate student outside hitter Zeynep Uzen. After a timeout from Colgate, the Eagles continued to put up points, with freshman outside hitter Holly Hopkins and freshman opposite hitter Carly Sciborski both registering kills in the middle section of the opening set.
Late in the first set, American held a 22-18 lead after an attack error from Colgate, which the Raiders challenged the call on. The referees overturned this call, making the score 21-19, and the reversal lit up Colgate’s home crowd. After a long exchange of back and forth points, the Raiders were able to string three kills together and win the first set 30-28.
Disheartened after the first set loss, the Eagles started off the first set slowly. After winning the first two points, American was not able to keep up with the blocking prowess Colgate put up. Every attack the Eagles were able to set up, the Raiders had an answer for, usually coming in the form of a team block. The second set went by quickly, the Eagles only putting up 12 points in a 25-12 set loss.
Down 2-0, it was sudden death for American. The team pulled out all the stops in this final set, starting freshman outside hitter Sofia Osterdahl. Osterdahl had not seen much playing time in the Eagles’ run that launched them to the championship game, but her contribution of four kills early in this set kept American in the game.
Long rallies and thunderous spikes from both sides marked this final set. Uzen put up another four kills to bring her total on the day up to 18. Even with American throwing everything they had at the Raiders, Colgate came out on top, winning the final set 25-19.
Uzen’s 18 kills led the team, with graduate student middle blocker Carlie Fikse’s nine kills following. Junior setter Esma Sipahi led the team in assists with 35, and junior libero Bridget Javitch led the team in digs with 19.
“This run [we had] was a statement to the rest of the college volleyball scene,” head coach Ahen Kim said after the game. “American University volleyball is back on the top of the league.”
Kim said that if the first set in the game had gone the other way, they might be looking at a different result, but that he is still proud of this team for what they had done throughout this season. “I love them for making it through all this adversity this season, especially with a short runway coming into the year. We were 4-4 halfway through league play, and we made a huge turnaround to make it to matching Colgate point for point in the championship.”
Kim said his message for the team was simply that a championship would have been nice, but “How they made it to this moment was the most important thing.”
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.