MIDDLETOWN, Conn. –The No. 21 nationally-ranked Wesleyan volleyball team opened their season by eliminating the previously undefeated Coast Guard Bears 3-0 at home in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. Wesleyan (1-0) starts with a win for the third straight season as the Bears saw their five-game winning streak to open 2022 come to an end.
As a team, Wesleyan hit .277 (33 kills, 10 errors on 83 attempts) compared to just .078 (30 kills, 22 errors on 103 attempts) for the Bears. The Cardinals also amassed nine serving aces to just one for the Coast Guard, which paved the way for the win.
In her college opener, Sophie Lindus ’26 impressed across the board as she had nine kills on 22 attempts (.273 hit percentage) with nine digs, just missing a double-double. Catherine Morton ’24 impressed in what was her first career start, finishing with career highs in knockouts (six), blocks (seven) and service ace (three) while committing no offensive errors in nine total attempts for an attack percentage of 0.667.
Another brilliant midfielder in his first chance at extended playing time was Bianca Gonya ’25 who recorded five error-free kills, hitting .357 for the game. Bella Ahearn ’23 went for six wins as Mariko Tanaka ’24 added four to accompany three blocks and two digs. Reigning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year Jenna Otaola ’22 started the season with 10 digs in two sets of action.
There wasn’t much Wesleyan could do wrong at first as Morton and Grace Dennis ’23 combined on blocks in two of the first four points as Lindus finished off a pass from Dennis to put the Cardinals up 9-1 in the first set. Coast Guard bounced back with a 5-0 run, but would come within three short of the lead for the remainder of the first set as knockouts from Gonya and Ahearn capped a 25-14 triumph.
Neither team was leading by more than two points as the lead changed hands several times until halfway through when a 6-1 Cardinal run extended Wesleyan’s lead to 18-13. Lindus was again involved in kills on consecutive runs before Tanaka scored one to give the Cardinals a five-point lead. Another extended 5-1 late in the set, capped by a kill then an ace from Morton, gave Wesleyan a 25-17 second victory.
The Coast Guard opened the first set with three straight runs, but from then on the third set was all Wesleyan as the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run behind serve from Kiana Yuhl ‘5 which fired home three aces in the score. Another Wesleyan 8-1 run made the Cardinals 17-5 before the match was finally decided in a 25-12 victory in the third set.
Claire Portigue led all players with 10 kills for the Bears. Shannon Shaw added seven kills, seven digs and two blocks while Noelle Tursky recorded four kills, 14 assists and four digs for the Coast Guard.
Next up for the Cardinals is a busy weekend at home as Wesleyan hosts No. 22 Southwestern (Texas), Aurora and Roger Williams for a four-team tournament. Two games in total are scheduled for Friday while four will be played on Saturday. Wesleyan opens the tournament at home Friday night against Southwestern at 7:30 p.m.