Berry Volleyball outlasted by Rhodes at home Sunday

Vikings ‘streaky’ in 5 set loss, coach Mika Robinson says

by Blake Hudson

Seniors Katie O’Rourke (left) and Lauren
Schmitz battling – and blocking – Rhodes.


Photo by Chantal Guerrero

The Berry College women’s volleyball team finished a weekend of woes by losing Sunday to Rhodes College 3-2 just a day removed from falling also to Hendrix.

For the second match in a row, the Vikings were without their All-American outside hitter Emily Stromberg.

The loss drops the Viking to 13-5 overall and 4-3 in the SAA. Especially demoralizing was the fact that Rhodes came to The Cage as one of the lower-tier teams in the conference, leaving Berry Sunday at 7-10 overall and 2-5 in the SAA.

Senior Katie O’Rourke led team in kills with 12, while Lauren Schmitz, also a senior, led in assists with 34.

On defense O’Rourke and junior Jessica Gum each tallied eight blocks for the Vikings. Both Gum and freshman Christina Goforth had nine kills in the game.

Berry took the first set 25-18, but even that was hard-fought. Vikings head coach Mika Robinson called a time out with the score knotted at 16. Led by strong hitting from O’Rourke and Goforth, the Vikings only allowed two more points in the set.

Strong hitting from August Bishop propelled Rhodes to a 25-22 win in the second set. Bishop had 19 kills on the day for the Lynx.

The Vikings looked unbeatable in the third set, jumping out to a quick 12-5 lead. Sophomore Rachel Ford helped lead the surge with two aces and strong hitting from the back row.

Tied at 15 midway through the fourth set, the Vikings could not hold off the offense of the Lynx, falling 25-21. Rhodes won with six unanswered points late in the set.

Looking for a spark, Robinson left reserves Hannah Kate Thompson, Cassie Culhan and Hannah Billiard in to battle it out for the Vikings.

“Some of it had to do with the hard work those young players have been putting in, and we needed their energy,” she said.

Rhodes controlled the fifth set, winning the tiebreaker 15-10.

Clearly, the Vikings could have used Stromberg.

“We missed her from a leadership perspective as well as on the court in scoring points, in service and passing,” Robinson said.

It’s not known when Stromberg can return.

“Today felt like a different atmosphere on the court,” said Rachel Ford, sophomore. “It wasn’t anything that they were doing too well. We’ve seen teams that hit just as strongly as they do, and we’ve been able to beat them easily.”

Looking forward, Robinson says she is expecting more out of her players.

“We have to be more disciplined in how we’re playing the game, putting more pressure on teams early in sets,” she said. “There were stretches where we blocked well and stretches where we were strong offensively. Unfortunately it was just a little too streaky.”

Berry looks to bounce back Tuesday when they play at SAA foe Oglethorpe. They return home next weekend to play Sewanee and Centre.

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