Lady Corsairs Lose Final Game of Season, Placing Fourth in Conference

The rigid stiffness of the hardwood bleachers was not the reason that had the crowd on their feet on Thursday, Nov. 20 as the Santa Monica College women's volleyball team played against Glendale College in their final game of the season. After winning their previous game on Tuesday, Nov. 18, the Lady Corsairs lost in a five-set game, finishing fourth overall in the Western State Conference.

"We played as a team, and we lost as a team," said outside hitter Kashelle Wilkerson.

The buzzer went off and the Lady Corsairs were ready to decimate. The first point of the first set went to SMC. As did the second, and the third and the fourth. Coach Ryan's presence could be seen on the court at all times, directing and encouraging her team. With the score at 22-17 in favor of the Lady Vaqueros, who only needed three more points to seal the match, the SMC team tightened up the score to 22-20 within seconds.

With a game that so obviously relies on teamwork, the Lady Corsairs consistently kept the ball going between them, but still lost the first set, 25-21.

In the second set, no battle was lost until the ball touched the ground. With the score at 5-4, SMC captain Rebecca Chase ran after the ball and straight into the judging table with hopes for a save, but unfortunately could not make it.

At one point, what looked like a lost point for SMC, turned into a dramatic save that had the ball going over the net seven times before it hit the ground. When the Corsairs reached 24-22, Glendale called a match point time out. It was obvious that both teams wanted this match. Corsairs had a shot for a win, and Glendale for the sweep.

With a swift serve by Libero Shelley Yang, and complete silence in the SMC Pavilion, the ball flew over the net with such executed beauty, landing just barely inside the perimeter and clinching the set for SMC.
As the third set began, both teams were once again on equal playing field, with one win apiece. Wilkerson's spikes had obviously instilled fear in the hearts of the Vaqueros, so as she came forth, all the competitors on the other side of the court scrambled away as she gently tapped the ball, letting it fall leisurely to the other side.

SMC was down 8-5, but this just got the spectators rallied more. In a point that seemed lost to each team over and over, saves were played out professionally, while the crowd "oohed," "ahhed" and got completely lost in the collective effervescence of the moment.

The point went to Glendale, but adrenaline was still coursing through the Lady Corsairs, as they scored the next two points.
At 24-23 Corsairs, Glendale called another match point time out. The Corsairs patiently waited on the court for Glendale to return and a serve by Chase, who broke her finger in the middle of the set, had the ball dancing across sides and landing in SMC's area. Both teams were tied at match point, and the calls of the announcer could not be heard over the screaming of the audience. SMC won the third set 26-25.

The Corsairs were now up two sets to one with just one more set to bring in a victory for their concluding game of the season.

During the fourth and what SMC hoped would be final set, the referee's calls were too much for Ryan to handle, so she walked right up into their faces and began to argue. The referee barely looked at her and said, "you are playing volleyball, not wrestling," and dismissed her.

"I've never seen a ref who called so many fouls," said SMC Athletic Director Gregg Simmons. "This game is exciting. It's nice to end the season with a game like this." Simmons, along with the rest of the masses, was hoping for a Corsair triumph.

Although the Corsairs wanted to settle the match right then and there, they lost the fourth set 25-17.

SMC's loss did not diminish their strength, taking the first point and an early lead of the fifth and final set. In general rules of volleyball, the fifth set only goes to 15 points and once the score reached 8-6 with the Corsairs as the frontrunners, the teams switched sides.

"They're going to keep this game close," commented Simmons. However, once they switched sides, the Lady Corsairs were unable to get a point in and they lost the set 8-15.

"Yeah we lost tonight," said Ryan, "but it was a great battle. They are amazing. They've inspired me every single day as a coach." Her emotions overcame her and with tears streaming down her face, Ryan continued, "I went [to SMC] so it's more meaningful. My mentor and former volleyball coach Elaine Roque is still teaching here and she said she'll never forget her first team. She still has their picture on her office door. I was one of those from the first year."

Sophomore Christa Czer stood on the sidelines pondering the season and the game. The loss didn't seem to dampen her spirits. "I thought we had an awesome season! Best group of girls I ever played with. There was always a sense of team spirit on the court and we played our hearts out," she said. Then with a laugh she added, "we were small but mighty."